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Kol Rinah History

Kol Rinah officially formed July, 2013

Kol Rinah embodies the new spirit of Conservative Judaism in the Midwest. It radiates the joy of worship, learning and Jewish music both in and out – into our souls and out to the families, friends and community.

While Kol Rinah might be St. Louis’ newest congregation, we are also a community rich with history and with deep roots in the city.  These roots come from our two legacy congregations, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek.  Separately our two communities have been an integral part of St. Louis Jewish life for over a century.

In 2013, we chose to greet the future by combining our resources and merging our congregations.  In creating this new shul, we had the opportunity to blend the best of our two communities and create a place where we can express our love of Judaism and St. Louis.
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BSKI, Shaare Zedek vote to merge
By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light 

Merger vote

BSKI President Susan Cort and Shaare Zedek President Mitch Shanker announce the results of the vote held at BSKI on Sunday night.  Handout photo

In a move that makes it all but certain that two of the area’s three Conservative congregations will join to form a new institution, members at Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek Synagogue voted overwhelmingly to move forward with a merger Sunday afternoon.

“We did it!” said a smiling Gary Kodner, chair of the Shaare Zedek board and longtime proponent of a merger, as he walked from the BSKI auditorium after the balloting.

The measure, which passed by a hefty margin in both congregations, officially authorizes synagogue leadership to consummate the joining.

“I couldn’t be more elated,” said Mitchell Shenker, president of Shaare Zedek where 90 percent of the 250 voting members approved the resolution.

Shenker said he had first met with BSKI President Sue Cort about a year ago.

“We said, ‘you know, it just makes sense,” he recalled. “We need to start this process anew.’ We both knew then that what happened today needed to happen.”

“We aren’t going to just be a merged Shaare Zedek and BSKI,” he added. “We are going to be a new congregation.”

Sentiment was similar from his BSKI counterpart.

“I think the whole idea is that we wanted everyone to be on board with the concept and agree that a merger was necessary,” noted Cort who could not recall the exact vote total from her congregation but said it was upwards of 80 percent in favor.

An email from Gary Kodner put the BSKI total at 168-38.

Still, the work is just beginning and much remains to be decided. This weekend’s balloting left a wide variety of issues open for the future including a new name, a location and the new institution’s rabbinic presence, all of which will be worked out by an array of seven committees covering everything from finances to bylaws.

Effective upon the date of merger, the president of BSKI will assume the presidency of the new synagogue through the end of 2014. The president of Shaare Zedek would chair the board of directors.

“We will make the decisions as a new entity,” said Cort. “We didn’t want to take over and do anything without everybody having an agreement that this was the best way to go.”

Shenker estimated it could take three to five months to work out the details and legalities pertaining to a merged institution, meaning the process could easily consume the rest of the year.

The roots of the merger date back to 2009 when discussions first began to churn as a potential solution to the challenges of declining membership faced by the two congregations and the Jewish community at large which continues to struggle with troubling issues of a shrinking population and inflated infrastructure costs. This month, B’nai El, a congregation of about 150 families, announced it would put its Creve Coeur property up for sale because it had become too large for the membership. In recent years, Temple Israel, Temple Emanuel and United Hebrew have all engaged in some form of merger conversations though no joinings resulted. Last year, Congregation Kol Am shut its doors altogether dissolving under ongoing financial pressure.

The last synagogue merger in St. Louis County was in 2006 when two small Orthodox congregations joined to form U. City Shul.

Just this year, Saul Mirowitz Day School-Reform Jewish Academy and Solomon Schechter Day School came together to form a single institution.

The original round of talks between BSKI and Shaare Zedek faltered in late 2010 after months of intense discussions but restarted in March of this year.

Leaving the meeting, Peter Walker, a Shaare Zedek congregant, said he had been among those in favor and was happy about the move.

“I think it’ll be good for both congregations,” he said. “It seems like we have representatives from both shuls that are going to be part of the committees and I think that will be a good thing for both.”

Jerome Nuell, a BSKI member who voted yes, also expressed optimism as he departed the meeting.

“I think it’s important that the Jewish community stands in a way that they can survive,” he said. “The only way they are going to do that is to have successful mergers of the various [institutions]…The younger people are not affiliating or are moving out of town.”

Kodner, who helped spearhead the previous round of talks when he was president of Shaare Zedek, said there was good turnout and a solid mandate.

“I’m really excited because this is the culmination of a number of years of work by a lot of people over two administrations at BSKI and Shaare Zedek Synagogue,” he said.

Opponents however were less enthused about the move. Karen Zeff who has attended BSKI since 1976, said she certainly had nothing against Shaare Zedek but had hoped to have more time to see if a three-way merger with B’nai Amoona might have been possible.

“We wanted to defer the vote to see if we could explore that alternative,” said the Clayton resident who cast a dissenting ballot, “but the board indicated that they’d explored that in the past and they weren’t going to explore it again.”

She said she wished the leadership well in carrying through their vision but said she and her husband were looking for other worship options due to uncertainty over personnel issues such as how many rabbinic and cantorial staff would be a part of the new institution.

She said things had been difficult since Rabbi Mordecai Miller departed BSKI in March. Zeff left open the possibility of returning but not in the “near future.”
“Maybe in two or three years, the dust will settle,” she said. Lauren Buchsbaum, another BSKI congregant, also voted against.

“I was never against the merger. I just didn’t like the process,” she said. “I didn’t feel that people who had critical questions or comments or concerns were really allowed to address them fully.”

She questioned whether the proclamations predicting a future of difficult circumstances if the joining were rejected might have been overblown or too broadly stated. She also felt the merger was too heavily weighted towards Shaare Zedek’s culture.

“To me, it was more like a lane merging onto a highway rather than two equals merging and becoming something new,” she said. “I hope I’m proven wrong about that now that the merger has taken place.”

She said she might explore other worship options but was also willing to give the new institution a chance.

An email circulated by some opponents said that they felt dissenting voices had not been given proper time to air their points of view, that they believed BSKI was not given equal input and that they believed other options should be looked at first. They also objected to the process taking place in the midst of the High Holidays.

“We will vote against the merger of BSKI and SZ – at least at this time,” the email said. “We very well may support it later after all alternatives are explored and when we feel our membership is fairly included in this process. ”

Rick Kodner, former president of BSKI, said he voted with the majority though his thoughts on the matter had a melancholy tone nonetheless.

“In some ways it means that these two congregations, in some form, will continue on. But what I’m looking at is that it is also the death of two synagogues and that’s sad,” said Kodner, who, along with his brother Gary, led discussions over the previous merger attempt. “In today’s world, it is very hard, very tough to keep these places alive. The young people don’t want it anymore.”

Both institutions have roots that span more than a century. BSKI itself was the result of a merger between two synagogues in 1960. At the time, it had 500 families. Today, Rick Kodner estimates it remains at about 300. His brother said Shaare Zedek has about 325 membership units.

BSKI’s Kodner also said he’d been discouraged by what he described as infighting within his congregation as well as an increasing lack of participation over the past few months that has made maintaining a minyan difficult.

He said that despite his mixed feelings, he believes a joining is the right thing to do.

“We could have stumbled on for maybe another 10 years or so but I think that would have probably been it,” he said.
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Congregation Kol Rinah approved as incorporated Missouri organization

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has certified that Congregation Kol Rinah has completed its incorporation process and is now a new legal organization in the state.

The certification document states, “…Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Congregation and Shaare Zedek Synagogue are hereby merged and the merged entity shall be named ‘Kol Rinah,’”  and the congregation will be governed by Chapter 352 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, which deals with religious and charitable associations.

“This decree represents the culmination of much hard work and dedication by numerous members and leaders,” said past president and communication committee chair Gary Kodner. “It allows us to go forward in a number of areas including the establishment of financial accounts and procedures.”  

Kol Rinah president Sue Cort said the congregation’s work is not yet finished. “We now share a common task of building a more vibrant and sustainable community and we are counting on the participation, input, creativity and capital of all members to ensure that Kol Rinah thrives from generation to generation.”

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At the September 2015 signing of the building exchange are (from left) Kol Rinah Rabbi Noah Arnow, Kol Rinah President Mitch Shenker,  The Journey Lead Pastor Jeremy Irwin, and The Journey Director of Operations Mike Duncan.

More than one year after the Conservative congregation Kol Rinah agreed to swap buildings with a church in Clayton, the synagogue board voted that the new building is suitable for a move.

The congregation will relocate from 829 N. Hanley Road in University City to 7701 Maryland Ave. 

The vote comes three years after Kol Rinah was created by the merger of two Conservative synagogues, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek. Leaders of the synagogues viewed a merger as a way to consolidate resources amidst declining membership. The merged congregation moved into the Shaare Zedek building on Hanley Road. Journey Christian Church will now take over that space.

When the plans were originally announced in 2015, Kol Rinah leaders acknowledged that the decision could alienate some longtime members, particularly those from BSKI, who will now have moved twice. 

“Leaving any home, whether it’s a residence or business — certainly for a congregation — that you’ve been in for many years, it’s a loss,” Rabbi Noah Arnow of Kol Rinah said at the time. “That’s been hard for a lot of people, and it’s going to be hard when we leave the building we’re in right now.”

The board meeting Thursday night took nearly five hours, according to a letter sent to members by the congregation president and board chair.

After “many years of deliberation, study, hard work, debate and literal blood, sweat and tears, the Kol Rinah board of directors voted by ballot regarding the suitability of the Clayton property as the future home of Kol Rinah,” the letter stated.

Gary Kodner, a past president of Kol Rinah, described the vote as an “historic event because you are talking about two legacy congregations now being able to realize” the vision of “having a common home.”

Kodner said that while there was not unanimous support for the move, there was excitement at the meeting about the move to Clayton. The congregation plans to hang the BSKI plaques and memorials which had been in storage, he said. “I think that the people from the legacy congregations now see it as an opportunity to move into a neutral space.”

The Jewish and Christian congregations will each renovate their new buildings and share space until the projects are completed. Arnow said he expects to be fully moved into the new space sometime between September 2018 and January 2019.

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Kol Rinah starts $7 million building revamp in Clayton

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer, 

More than 125 people gathered Sunday, Aug. 19 at Kol Rinah’s future home in Clayton for a groundbreaking ceremony. The Conservative synagogue plans to spend about $7 million on the renovation of the former Journey Christian Church at 7701 Maryland Ave.

In addition to the congregation’s lay leaders and clergy, Clayton Mayor Harold Sanger and Andrew Rehfeld, president and CEO of Jewish Federation of St. Louis, also attended and spoke. 

“We are in the heart of Clayton, which is the heart of our county, and the population of Clayton keeps growing with homes and apartments,” said Sidney Guller, a Kol Rinah member and donor. “Many of our elderly and young people are moving into this area, so it’s important that we have a facility which will on all bases be able to help them.”

Rehfeld, a member of Kol Rinah, also noted the geographical significance of the synagogue’s move from its current home at 829 N. Hanley Road in University City.

“It marks in a very tangible form a return east that we are seeing in our population,” he said. “The importance of infrastructure is sometimes hard to praise but should never be forgotten. The infrastructure of our communal organizations help us honor and respect the past, provide continuity to the present and elevate the purposes that we gather in them.”

Kol Rinah was formed in 2013 when Conservative congregations Shaare Zedek and Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel merged. In March 2017, Kol Rinah’s board approved the plan to swap buildings with the church in Clayton. 

The synagogue hopes to complete construction by summer 2019.

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Maryland Avenue Construction Photos

BSKI History and Photos

Click here to access BSKI Photos
Click here to access historic BSKI news articles

HISTORY OF BRITH SHOLOM KNESETH ISRAEL – ( updated July 22, 1994)
The first building (education center) of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel (BSKI) was built at 1107 Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights, Missouri, and was dedicated on the 5th of June, 1960. The building was named for Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, who served the Synagogue for many years. The dedication took place a few months after the merger of the two Congregations - Brith Sholom and Kneseth Israel. The merged Congregations then consisted of about 500 families, 400 from Brith Sholom and 100 from Kneseth Israel. Let’s start with the smaller of the two Synagogues, Kneseth Israel.

KNESETH ISRAEL

In the mid 1930s, the Jewish merchants/salesman who worked along the Washington Avenue wholesale garment district in downtown St. Louis, all knew each other well and stuck close together. They had an organization of salesmen who gathered together for daily minyans. Some of the salesmen had their widowed fathers living with them and supported them. The fathers needed a place to say Kaddish. Nolan Dewoskin said that his father-in-law, Ben Reuben, had died and he wanted to say Kaddish. Nolan was living on Rosebury in Clayton and needed a convient place, close-by to pray before going to work.  And to remedy this situation, he found an empty store on Rosebury near DeMun Ave. in Clayton. A group of fathers went to their sons and asked them to put up $1 or $2 each to rent the store front on Demuan for thier daily Minyans. They had prayer books and chairs donated; and also decided to organize a congregation. They formed an official charter and called their congregation Kneseth Israel. They had membership cards printed, and the salesmen went up and down Washington Avenue to solicit memberships at $2-$3 per year. Many salesmen joined because it was an “almost” free Shul, paid for by the salesmen of Washington Avenue.

Other Jews outside of Washington Avenue started attending to the new Shul. As the congregation grew, the membersneeded to expand theior capacity. So they knocked out walls to expand into the adjacent store. Leroy Kopolow, President of Kneseth Israel in 1953-54, tells us that he started attending the minyan in 1947 to say Kaddish for his father. There was no offical Rabbi. Reverend Fleigstein (rabbis were often referred to as "Reverend" back then) led the services.

Morris Bean was an active leader. The leader was also called “Baal Tefilla”, one who could Daven, had a good voice and could lead services. A Mr. Sorkin was also an active member. He was a very religious orthodox Jew with a wonderful memory. “Three Sachs brothers were involved. They were Harvey, who ““ran the show,” Irving, the financial genius and Ben, the youngest brother. Ben is the only one living today. At that time, 17th and Biddle Street was a kind of Jewish Ghetto.

As time passed, more and more people became interested in Kneseth Israel and it eventually developed into a more conventional Congregation. Expenses were kept low as no one was paid to conduct services. The job of “Para Rabbi” was passed around among the active members. Funds were accumulated over time.

In the early 1950s, The Kneseth Israel congregation purchased an old school building on 4 acres at 700 South Hanley in Clayton. Charles Binowitz became President in 1959. The membership consisted mostly of businessmen, so they were able to run the Synagogue in a prudent manner. No one was paid to conduct services and few funds were going out. They were one of the few congregations in St. Louis without a mortgage or debt.

In 1960, Kneseth Israel negotiated a merger with Brith Sholom to become Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel. Brith Sholom had decided to move from its Delmar location to Richmond Heights (less than a mile from the Kneseth Israel) It didn’t make sense to have two Congregations that close - “didn’t need two Synagogues on an island.” Kneseth Israel sold the property on Hanley, as well as its cemetery and brought $35,000 to the joint Congregation. At that time, Brith Sholom was making plans to move from Delmar with their new Rabbi, Benson Skoff. Rabbi Rivkin was with Keneseth Israel at the time of the merger. He had come to St. Louis from New York and was with Kneseth Israel for two years. Kopolow’s son was Bar Mitzvahed by him Rivkin moved to Seattle and later returned to St. Louis as Chief Rabbi. The Kneseth Israel had been part Orthodox, with separate seating but no divider.

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Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, 1926-2011
Rabbi Rivkin served Congregation Nusach H'Ari beginning in December, 1948. He served Congregation Knesseth Israel, St. Louis, Missouri for over 5 years (1954-1959). Rivkin was the Chief Orthodox Rabbi in St. Louis for over 22 years (1983-2005). Later health problems prevented him from continuing in this roll. He is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. You can find the full list at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS.
_________________________

Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, who died Saturday, October 1, 2011, was the last chief rabbi in St. Louis and the United States. As word spread of his death, he was being mourned worldwide.

He was well-versed and an expert in all areas of Jewish law with specialized knowledge in the laws of Gittin (Jewish Divorce). He was consulted for decisions on Jewish Law and advice in daily matters by both laymen and prominent Rabbis as well as Rabbinical courts around the world. The position of chief rabbi is somewhat akin to that of a chief judge. It was a holdover practice brought to the United States during the 1800s by Orthodox Jews from Europe. St. Louis was the last American city with a chief rabbi.

Until he retired in 2005, Rabbi Rivkin headed the Vaad Hoeir in St. Louis, the governing body under which the chief rabbi was the sole authority on questions of Jewish law, education, religious divorce and dietary practices. "It's been a very heavy responsibility being the decider," he told the Post-Dispatch in 1998.

Rabbi Rivkin died Saturday (Oct. 1, 2011) at McKnight Place Extended Care in University City. He was 85 and had lived with Parkinson's disease for about seven years, said his daughter, Jacqueline Rivkin of New York.

Although he was often called upon to judge religious matters, "he wasn't a person who judged" others, his daughter said.

"He wanted people to love each other," she said. "And he was extraordinarily brilliant."

He often broke new Jewish legal ground. In the 1980s his decision to allow a St. Louis Jewish woman to undergo in vitro fertilization influenced Jewish legal thought on bioethics.

Rabbi Rivkin came from a long line of rabbis - he was the 40th generation, according to the family's count.

He was born in Jerusalem of Russian parents who had fled the czar's pogroms.

When he was 3, the family fled again, this time to New York, after Arab riots and the massacre of Jews in the old Palestine.

Rabbi Rivkin's father Rabbi Moshe Duber Rivkin was a dean of a yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 1928 or 1929 they were in desperate need of funds. The elder Rivkin was asked to travel to the United States for a while, with the intention of returning to Jerusalem, in order to raise desperately needed funds for the yeshiva. While he was in the United States (because of his reputation as a great scholar and a pedagogue of tremendous quality) he was offered a Mesivta Torah Vodaarh (or Mesivta Rabbinical Seminary) of Brooklyn, New York, which was then in its early years, to serve on its staff as a Rosh Yeshiva and later as principal. Since the original purpose of his temporary visit to the United States was to raise funds, he consulted with his Rebbe, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, of blessed memory, and asked if he should accept the offer or not. The Rebbe answered in the afirmative, that he should remain in the United States. In 1929 his wife and two children (Rabbi Sholom Rivkin and his sister) came to the United States to rejoin the elder Rivkin and settle in Brooklyn. Also, the elder Rivkin did not leave Russia to avoid arrest as was stated before but, rather, was sent to Jerusalem, Palestine, by the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe to serve as dean of Yeshiva Toras Emeth of Jerusalem.
(NOTE: part of the content of this paragraph contributed by and corrected by Rabbi Sholom Rivkin's son, Rabbi Ben Zion Rivkin in 2013)

Rabbi Rivkin first moved to St. Louis in 1948 when he was 22 years old.
He was rabbi until 1959 of the old Nusach Hari Congregation here. He also was chaplain at the Veterans Hospital at Jefferson Barracks and a teacher and assistant principal at Epstein Hebrew Academy.

He met his future wife, the former Paula Zuckerman of Buffalo, N.Y., on a blind date and they married in 1954.

They moved to Seattle in 1959 where he was rabbi of the largest Orthodox synagogue in the Pacific Northwest. A decade later, they moved to Queens, N.Y., where he became rabbi of Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater.

In 1983, he was named chief rabbi in St. Louis of the United Orthodox Jewish Community-Vaad Hoeir - which means "Council of the City or Community." It was an umbrella organization to assure the standards of Jewish dietary and other laws were kept in the community.

Orthodox Judaism is the smallest and strictest branch of the religion.

Rabbi Rivkin later was given the title of chief rabbi for life. But in 2005, illness forced him to retire and he was named chief rabbi emeritus.

By his count, Rabbi Rivkin was the fourth chief rabbi in St. Louis and he has not been replaced; the St. Louis Rabbinical Council assumed his duties.

As chief rabbi, he was consulted on questions of Jewish law here and abroad.

"His name and his word were gold - that's how renowned he was," said Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt, a friend and rabbi at Agudas Israel Synagogue in University City.

As chief rabbi, Rabbi Rivkin presided over the Rabbinical Court in St. Louis, supervised kosher issues, and was one of the few rabbis in the United States qualified to perform a religious divorce for Jews - known as a "get."

He once traveled to Russia when no rabbi was available there to perform religious divorces.

"Right now, St. Louis does not have any rabbi qualified to perform that service," Greenblatt said.

Paula Rivkin died Jan. 7 of pancreatic cancer at age 78. She was an advocate for women and helped establish the Jewish Council Against Family Violence.

Both Rivkins were naturalized Americans.

Rabbi Rivkin will be buried at the ancient Mount of Olives Cemetery in Jerusalem after three memorial services: the first was Sunday in St. Louis, the second was Monday in New York and the third will be today in Jerusalem.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his son, Rabbi Ben Rivkin of Chesterfield; a sister, Ella Shurin of New York City; two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 4, 2011, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 3, 2011

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Rabbi Adolf A. Rosentreter, 1858-1930
Rabbi Rosentreter served Congregation B'nai Amoona, St. Louis, Missouri for over 20 years (1885-1912). He also served as rabbi at Brith Sholom for 20 years (1910-1930). On March 17, 1930 Rabbi Mazur succeeds Rabbi Adolph Rosentreter, who had been officiating for a number of years, but on account of ill health was unable to perform his spiritual duties. He was elected Rabbi Emeritus. The announcement of the election was made by J. D. Gross, president.

Rabbi Jacob Rueban Mazur, 1891-1958

Rabbi Jacob Rueben Mazur assumed spiritual leadership of Brith Sholom on June 1, 1930. His advent marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented change and unity. The first Bat Mitzvah was of Tina Zorensky at the Delmar location. During this period the Rose Fischmann Library was started; Sylvin Robinson organized a baseball team; the sisterhood and men's club came into being. And, step by step, the late Friday night service came about, Yiddish sermons became English sermons and separate seating became mixed seating.

Rabbi Mazur was born in Poland and later lived in South Africa and came to the US in 1912. He received his early education under the famous Rabbis in Slabadka and graduated from Dr. Bender's Theological Seminary in Capetown, South Africa. He continued his studies at Dr. Schecters' Seminary and at Cornell University.

Rabbi Mazur served Congregation Brith Sholom as senior rabbi for over 28 years (1930-1958) and he is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. The full list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS.
1914 - Married Miss Edith Frankel, daughter of Rabbi David Frankel.
1910 - Graduated high school from Dr. Render's Seminary, Cape Town, South Africa.
1912 - Yeshivah in Hamar, Galicia, Norway Rabbi Ordination (Semikhah)
1912 - Came to the United States, Congregation Anshay Levitz, New York City
Congregation Anshay Sochotchov, New York City
Rabbi Ordination (Semikhah) from both
1913 - Congregation Dukler Mogain Abraham, New York City
Rabbi Ordination (Semikhah)
1914 - Married Miss Edith Frankel, daughter of Rabbi David Frankel
1914 - Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Studied under Dr. Schmitt, Professor and Instructor of Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Semitic culture.
1914-1921 - Congregation Hebrew Free School, Tampa, Florida
Served as pulpit rabbi - congregation in Montgomery, Alabama
1921-1930 - Senior Rabbi - Agudath Achim Congregation, East St. Louis, IL
March 15, 1930 - Jewish Theological Seminary (JTA)
March 17, 1930 - Senior Rabbi, Brith Sholom Congregation, St. Louis, MO
1930-1959 - Senior Rabbi, Brith Sholom Congregation, St. Louis, MO
Rabbi Mazur succeeds Rabbi Adolph Rosentreter, who had been officiating for a number of years, but on account of ill health has been unable to perform his spiritual duties. He was elected rabbi emeritus. The announcement of the election was made by J. D. Gross, president.

25TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE TO RABBI MAZUR
Brith Sholom Special Program - 1955

Courtesy of Rabbi Mazur's daughter Naomi Silvermintz
Reproduced with Permission

"OUR RABBI WHO, FOR TWO DECADES AND A HALF, TAUGHT US TO DO MORE THAN LIVE AND LET LIVE--BUT TO LIVE AND HELP LIVE."

Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur came to the Brith Sholom Congregation from Agudath Achim Congregation, East St. Louis, Illinois, where he served at the spiritual leader for nine years.

Our Rabbi was born in Poland. He attended several Yeshives up to his Bar Mitzvah. (Macavah, Lomzah, and Kovnah). At the age of 13, he with his parents, Rabbi M. L. Mazur went to South Africa where his father served a Congregation in De-Parl, Cape Province. There he graduated High School and entered Dr. Render's Seminary in Cape Town, where from he graduated in 1910. He went to Europe to complete his studies and received his ordination (Smicha) from the Dean of the Yeshivah in Hamar Galicia, Rabbi M. M. Babed.

July 15, 1912, Rabbi Mazur came to the United States. He received another Smicha from Rabbi B. Levy of the Congregation Anshay Levitz and Anshay Sochotchov in New York, also a Smicha from Rabbi DAvid Frankel, 349 East 4th Street of Congregation Dukler Mogain Abraham in New York. In 1914, Rabbi Mazur married Miss Edith Frankel, the daughter of Rabbi David Frankel.

Rabbi Mazur also studied at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, under the famous professor Dr. Schmitt, Professor and Instructor of Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Semitic culture.

1914,- Rabbi Mazur was invited to occupy the pulpit of Congregation Hebrew Free School, Tampa, Florida. There, the Rabbi was instrumental in building a new Conservative Synagogue, Talmud Torah, and Sunday School. From Tampa, Rabbi Mazur was called to Montgomery, Alabama, where he introduced conservative services for the first time to that city. It was in Montgomery where the Rabbi was presented as a gift, the degree of the Shrine.

1921 - Rabbi Mazur was invited to preach on the pulpit in East St. Louis, Illinois, and the Agudath Achim Congregation elected the Rabbi as the spiritual leader of that community, where he served for nine years, putting into practice a co-ordinated program of religious, civil and social activities. Rabbi Mazur was instrumental in the erection of a new Hebrew and Sunday school building. While in East St. Louis, he served as one of the Vice-Presidents of the city-wide scout troups. He was, also, a charter member of the Kiwanis Club. Through his active work in the East St. Louis Zionist Emergency Council, Rabbi Mazur was instrumental in having East St. Louis Jewry play a prominent part in our National Zionistic endeavors.

1930 - Rabbi Mazur was called to the Brith Sholom Congregation to conduct Friday night and Sabbath services in February 1930. It was the wish of Rabbi Mazur that the late Rabbi Rosentreter be elected as Rabbi Emeritus. Unfortunately Rabbi Rosentreter met his Maker on Passover that year, six weeks before Rabbi Mazur took over the Rabbinical duties of the Brith Sholom Congregation.

The first Conservative men's club in the city of St. Louis was organized by Rabbi Mazur in the Brith Sholom Congregation. He, also, inaugurated the first Sunday school in the Brith Sholom Congregation and a Parent Teachers Organization. Mrs. Mazur organized the Daughters of Brith Shalom, which has grown into one of the most active Woman's Organizations in the city.

Rabbi Mazur has completely transformed the Brith Sholom Congregation. And, through his initiative, the Congregation membership increased from one hundred members to almost three hundred families. At his insistence the entire interior of the synagogue was renovated, a new Chapel was added, and a building was purchased on Washington Avenue for temporary Hebrew and Sunday School use At present, the Congregation is in search of a new site for a Brith Sholom Center.

Rabbi Mazur organized the following Sunday schools during the past years: Collinsville, IL; Granite City, IL; Belleville, IL; Cape Girardeau, MO. He dedicated the cornerstone of the Synagogue in the Tri Cities, IL. He also dedicated that Synagogue.

Rabbi Mazur has written several newspaper and magazine articles. He contributed many articles to the Modern View and the Jewish Post. Rabbi Mazur is now the President of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.

Rabbi Mazur, five years ago, inaugurated the first services to be conducted weekly, at the State Sanitarium on Arsenal Street. These services are being held every Tuesday morning from ten to eleven. These services are now under the auspices of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association and are being conduced alternately by the various Rabbis of the Association.

It is with a deep sense of appreciation that we, the officers, members and friends of the Brith Sholom Congregation give this testimonial in honor of our leader and friend, Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur. We trust that he will continue to guide and lead us to even greater heights.
(article provided courtesy of Mrs. Saul Silvermintz)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - December 4, 1958
RABBI JACOB MAZUR'S FUNERAL TOMORROW
CIVIC LEADER – HEADED BRITH SHOLOM CONGREGATION 29 YEARS


Funeral services for Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, religious and civic leader, will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Brith Sholom Congregation, 6166 Delmar Boulevard, whee he was rabbi for the last 29 years. Burial will be in Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, University City, Missouri.

Rabbi Mazur, 66 years old, died of a cerebral hemorrhage yesterday at Jewish Hospital. He had suffereed a stroke on Nov. 23rd.

Rabbi Mazur was born in Poland and lived for a time in hte Union of South Africa. He served congregations in Tampa Florida, Montgomery, Alabama, and East St. Louis, Illinois before settling here.

The son of a rabbi, he was ordained in Europe. Not long after coming to this country in 1912, Rabbi Mazur married Miss Edith Frankel, daughter of the chief rabbi of New York City.

Rabbi Mazur lived at 6405 Cates Avenue, University City. He was a past president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, a 32° Mason, a member of B'nai Brith, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Citizens Committee for City-County Cooperation.

He served as chaplain at St. Louis State Hospital where he started Jewish religious services several years ago.

Surviving in addition to his widow are one daughter, Mrs. Saul Silvermintz, and two sons, Dr. Sigmund E. Mazur and Dr. Herbert A. Mazur, all of St. Louis; four sisters, Mrs. Michael Gibson and Miss Bella Mazur of New York; Mrs. Ssm Solomon of Miami, Florida and Mrs. Rebecca Volks of the Union of South Africa; and one brother Sam Mazur of New York.

The body is at the Berger undertaking establishment, 4715 McPherson Avenue.

St. Louis Globe Democrat - December 4, 1958
RABBI MAZUR DIES; 29 YEARS AT B'RITH SHOLOM


Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, 66, rabbi of B'rith Sholom Congregation, 6166 Delmar Blvd. for the past 29 years, died at 2:45pm yesterday at Jewish Hospital of a cerebral hemorrhage. Hew had suffered a stroke 10 days ago.

Rabbi Mazur, who lived at 6405 Cates Avenue, University City, was a past president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association and was active in numerous Jewish and civic organizations.

Born in Poland, he came to the United States in 1912. Before coming to St. Louis, he served congregations in Tampa, Florida; Montgomery, Alabama, and East St. Louis.

A thirty-second degree Mason, he was active in the Zionist organization, B'nai B'rith, the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the Citizens Committee for City-County Co-operation. He instituted Jewish religious services at St. Louis State Hospital several years ago and served as chaplain there.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Edith Frankel Mazur; one daughter, Mrs. Saul Silvermintz, two sons, Dr. Sigmund E. Mazur and Dr. Herbert A. Mazur, all of St. Louis; one brother, Sam Mazur, New York, and four sisgers: Mrs. Michael Gibson and Miss Bella Mazur of New York; Mrs. Sam Solomon, Miami, Florida, and Mrs. Rebecca Volks of the Union of South Africa.

Funeral services will be held at B'rith Sholom Congregation at 11am tomorrow, with burial in Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. The body will lie in state at Berger Memorial Funeral Home, 4715 McPherson Avenue, from 8 to 10pm on Friday.

"Zecher Zaddick Lavrocha"--May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.
J. W. G. (article provided courtesy of Mrs. Saul Silvermintz)

I write these words just a few moments after hearing the sad news of the passing of my good friend and colleague, Rabbi Jacob Mazur.

For twenty-nine years, Rabbi Mazur faithfully served Brith Sholom Congregation and the St. Louis Community. A Past President of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, it was Rabbi Mazur who initiated the weekly religious services at the St. Louis State Hospital.

This brief recital of bare facts, however, cannot truly convey the deep sense of friendship we shared together. Indeed, there were strong ties of affection and devotion which united Jake Mazur with all his colleagues.

I know that there is always a temptation to be overly generous at such a time as this. Without any fear of exaggeration, however, I can honestly say that I have never known a Rabbi moe sincere than Jacob Mazur--or one with a better heart. He was intrinsically good. He knew no guile. He was a man of great compassion. With his insight and sensitivity to the sufferings of others, it is not surprising that he was the one to initiate weekly visits to the State Hospital. It could not have been anyone else.

In the ten years that I knew Jacob Mazur, I never detected even the slightest spark of envy in his personality. If one of his colleagues achieved some notable distinction or delivered an especially fine message, Jacob Mazur was the first to come forward and offer his congratulations. Nor was it ever an empty gesture. He sincerely meant it.

For me, the memory I will eternally cherish occurred at the Sabbath Service honoring his Twentieth Anniversary in St. Louis. Officially, my only duty was to read a portion of the Service. Unexpectedly, however, the President of the Congregation asked me to confer the Priestly Benediction upon Rabbi Mazur at the conclusion of the Service. I did. Jake Mazur never forgot it and neither will I. So that at my installation banquet, he was delighted when he was granted the opportunity to reciprocate and I was overjoyed.

The richest legacy which Jacob Mazur bequeathes is his family. Which is as it should be, if Judaism means anything at all. It is the strength of the family which is the strength of Judaism. And Jacob Mazur's home was a sanctuary filled with love and devotion. One only had to spend a single evening with him and his family to recognize what kind of a husband and father he was. Once knowing that, it was not difficult to understand why he was such a fine Rabbi, in the best sense of the word.

So to Edith, his lovely wife and one of the nicest women in our community...to his children--Naomi, Sig, and Herb, who already walk in their father's footsteps--I offer my own humble tribute in deepest sympathy. For I have lost one of my best friends.  

"A SCHOLARLY SAINT" Temple Israel Bulletin December, 1958
by Rabbi Ferdinand Myron Isserman


While the sudden shock of Rabbi Jacob R. Mazurs's passing is upon me, it is not easy to adequately to access the meaning of his life. The first thought which comes to my mind is his saintliness. It was he who industriously, indefatigably, and with moving sincerity championed the cause of the most helpless people in the community, the forgotten men and women of the State Mental Hospital on Arsenal Street. He arranged for a religious ministry for its Jewish patients, and when his colleagues in the rabbinate could not fulfill their engagements there, he assumed their responsibilities. Those he served there, the humblest of the humble, found in this sensitive rabbi a staunch champion and a sturdy friend.

Rabbi Mazur, likewise, was a scholar. Ordained by some of the greatest rabbis of our age, he was at home in the various fields of rabbinic lore, and was aware of the message of the rabbis to our time. Judaism to him was not a museum piece, but a faith and an ideal that the world needs today.

He was a warm friend, a helpful colleague, always appreciative, generous in his praise, and stimulating in his conversation and thought.

Never to be forgotten were the evenings at home with his lovely wife of distinguished rabbinic lineage for the rabbis and their families. There, all the tensions of his work would disappear. He gloried in his family, its rich traditions, and his educated children who, in their professional careers, reflected his love for learning and service. Staunch in his religious attitudes, he was sympathetic with and understanding of other points of view. He was beloved in East St. Louis whence he came to our city He was beloved in Brith Sholom, and also throughout the Jewish and general community. His friends in Temple Israel are many, and with me at this hour they feel a deep sense of loss. F. M. I.
(article provided courtesy of Mrs. Saul Silvermintz)
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Rabbi Benson Skoff, 1923-2014

Rabbi Skoff served Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel, Richmond Heights, Missouri for over 31 years (1960-1991) as its head rabbi. He would later serve as Rabbi Emeritus until his death in 2014 at age 91.

Rabbinic Chronology:
1948 - Rabbinic Ordination - Jewish Theological Seminary New York, NY
1949-1952 - Rabbi Congregation Agudas Achim Austin, Texas
1952-1956 - Rabbi - Tifereth Israel Congregation Duluth, Minnesota
1958-1959 - Rabbi - Ahavas Israel Congregation Grand Rapids, Michigan
1960-1991 - Rabbi - Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Richmond Heights, Missouri
1991-2014 - Rabbi Emeritus - Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel (BSKI) Richmond Heights, Missouri
2013-2014 - Rabbi Emeritus - Kol Rinah University City, Missouri

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Reproduced with Permission

Rabbi Benson Skoff, rabbi emeritus of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel (BSKI) congregation and Kol Rinah, who served BSKI for more than 30 years as spiritual leader, died Sunday, April 13. He was 91 and a longtime resident of Richmond Heights.

In 1959, Rabbi Skoff succeeded Rabbi Jacob Mazur at Brith Sholom Congregation, which was located on Delmar Boulevard at the time. In 1960, Brith Sholom merged with Congregation Kneseth Israel, which was then served by Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, who would become chief rabbi of the Vaad Hoeir-United Orthodox Jewish Community later in his career.
After the newly formed Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel congregation purchased land on Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights, the congregation — which had previously been Orthodox — joined the Conservative Movement. 

Rabbi Skoff was senior rabbi of BSKI from 1960 until his retirement in 1991, when he became rabbi emeritus. When BSKI merged with Shaare Zedek under the new name of Kol Rinah, Rabbi Skoff retained his emeritus title. Rabbi Skoff's immediate successor as senior rabbi of BSKI was Rabbi Mordecai Miller, who left BSKI in 2012.

Gary Kodner, past president of BSKI, and active member of Kol Rinah, said Rabbi Skoff was very active with BSKI during Rabbi Mordecai Miller's tenure, and he continued to serve as rabbi emeritus for the newly formed Kol Rinah, up until the time of his passing. "His voice will be remembered for years to come at Kol Rinah," said Kodner, who is also president of the Jewish Light. 

Rabbi Skoff was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 10, 1923, the son of William and Dena Skoff. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor of arts degree in education, and of Columbia University with a master's in education. He received his rabbinic ordination in 1948 from the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He served as assistant counselor to Jewish students and director of activities of the Jewish Graduate Society at Columbia University and was a lecturer in classical languages at the University of Texas.

Prior to accepting the pulpit at BSKI, Rabbi Skoff served as rabbi of congregations in Austin, Texas; Duluth, Minn.; and Grand Rapids, Mich. 
Asked early in his career what he was most proud of accomplishing, he said, "Leading the synagogue though the harmonious merger of the two congregations, Brith Sholom and Kneseth Israel, and through the building of a magnificent, million-dollar synagogue edifice."

Respected by his rabbinic colleagues, Rabbi Skoff served as president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association and as chairman of its Radio and TV Committee. He hosted Jewish-oriented programs for "Confluence," a long-running interfaith show on KMOV (Channel 4), and often hosted "Message of the Rabbi" shows on KTVI (Channel 2) with Rabbi Mark Shook of Temple Israel. 

In a 2009 interview with the Jewish Light, Rabbi Skoff recalled the "power TV has to promote dialogue." He hosted a "Confluence" show with representatives of both sides of the Yugoslav civil war. "These people who were enemies and would not speak to one another came together for this program," he said at the time. "Afterward, they stayed together for awhile, and they were talking to each other. I was amazed."

Throughout his career, Rabbi Skoff benefitted from the wisdom of his wife of 58 years, Rosalind Cohen Skoff, who died in 2004. Rabbi Skoff and his wife were admired for their warm hospitality and for the wisdom they imparted to newlyweds or couples contemplating marriage. Rabbi Skoff would share with such couples the story of the great Rabbi Akiva, who had yet to achieve greatness when he met his wife, Rachel. Through his Rachel's encouragement, Rabbi Akiva became one of the foremost thinkers in his generation, and she became a better person in the process. Rabbi Skoff shared the above story with the Jewish Light in a 2009 interview prior to a special commemorative service honoring his 50 years of association with BSKI. Shirlene Baris, a past president of BSKI, said, "He's been a wonderful rabbi for all of these years. He's been very close to many, many families, and he's done many life-cycle events, not only for couples, but for their children and grandchildren."

Baris said one of the things she admired most about Rabbi Skoff is that, except for the High Holidays, as rabbi emeritus he avoided the pulpit and chose to sit with fellow worshippers. "Every Saturday, he'd be there, but as just another member of the congregation," she said.
Mrs. Baris' husband, Irl Baris, said, "Rabbi Skoff was a model of steady leadership and reassurance" during the aftermath of the murder of BSKI member Gerald Gordon in 1977 by white supremacist killer Joseph Paul Franklin, who was executed for the crime last year.

Rabbi and Mrs. Skoff's love of learning and teaching spread to their family. Two of their five children, Jonine Skoff and Joshua Skoff, were ordained in May 1990, the first brother and sister to be ordained as rabbis at any American rabbinical seminary. Rabbi Jonina Skoff at the time told the Jewish Light, "I learned about the philosophical and rational parts of Judaism from my dad, and the emotional parts from my mom." Joshua Skoff, who had earned a law degree and was a lawyer, decided to become a rabbi after seeing some of his good friends become rabbis. 
"I began to see myself in a similar role," he said. 

Funeral services will be held Thursday, April 17, at 3:30 p.m., following visitation at 3 p.m., at the former BSKI building, 1107 Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights. Burial will be at the Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery on Ladue Road.

Survivors include five children, Temima (Alan) Gradman, Avi (Jayne) Skoff, Hillel (Roberta) Skoff, Joshua (Ilana Hoffer) Skoff, and Jonina (Randy) Pritzker; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. END
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BSKI’s farewell is marked by poignant memories of synagogue building
By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light 

Between the boarded-up windows, the space heater fighting a bit of a chill in the sanctuary and the periodic beep of a nearby smoke alarm’s dying battery, it was easy to see that life was winding down for the building at 1107 E. Linden Ave. in Richmond Heights. 

But on this Sunday, the 56-year-old structure that had housed Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel for its entire existence had one last lifecycle event to which it would play host — its own funeral.

“I know there is a deep sense of pain and loss in leaving this building and in saying goodbye to the spiritual home that we have lived in and loved for decades — for some of us, for our whole lives,” said Rabbi Noah Arnow.

Arnow presided over the afternoon ceremony, which took place after the structure’s final morning services. The building has sat mostly unused in the wake of BSKI’s 2013 merger with Shaare Zedek to create the area’s newest synagogue, Kol Rinah. Arnow, who arrived the following year, is now its spiritual leader.

The rabbi struck a somber tone and a few tears fell among the dozens who packed the sanctuary to standing-room-only capacity. It was a memorial not just for the edifice but also BSKI itself whose legacy would now continue in the new merged congregation that has been operating since at 829 N. Hanley Road in University City.

“It was the product of courage and imagination, hard work and vision,” Arnow said of BSKI. “This congregation contributed so much to the Jewish community and to the greater St. Louis community. I know all of us here are committed to preserving that legacy and bringing it forward into the future.”

BSKI concluded with a merger but it was also born of one. Brith Sholom was incorporated in 1908, moving through four locations before finally coming to suburban Richmond Heights from a spot on Delmar Boulevard as it joined with Kneseth Israel, a smaller, younger Clayton congregation with roots in the downtown garment district. In the late 1950s, the late Sholom Rivkin, later chief rabbi of St. Louis, would serve at Kneseth Israel. 

The 1960 merger brought many changes besides a new name. Brith Sholom, which began life as an Orthodox synagogue with membership limited to Austro-Hungarian Jews, switched to affiliate with the rapidly growing Conservative movement. It also had a new rabbi, Benson Skoff, who had begun leading the congregation the previous year, as well as the new building  on Linden, another outpost representing the westward demographic shift of Jews out the city’s central core.

The dream of that new facility began with Skoff’s predecessor, Rabbi Jacob Mazur. He urged the shul to purchase the land, which soon began construction of the first phase of a new building. The congregation began holding services on Linden with its 1960 completion but that original portion of the building later became the shul’s education center when the structure was expanded to include a new sanctuary a few years later.

Skoff led the congregation until assuming the title rabbi emeritus in 1991. He turned the reins over to Rabbi Mordecai Miller, who departed the post in 2013.

During the ceremony, which included singing and prayer, congregants were encouraged to share memories of the structure. Some included anecdotes or talk of birthdays and lifecycle events gone by. One former congregant even texted from Israel to note that she still sits on the left side of her Jerusalem synagogue because that’s where she sat at BSKI.

Congregant Randi Mozenter recalled how her son and daughter, now adults, had celebrated their bar and bat mitzvah at the shul. 

The 57-year-old, now vice-president of personnel at Kol Rinah, said that while she is sad about the building’s closure, she is excited about creating a future with fellow congregants at the new joined institution.

“My 23-year-old daughter, who is very wise, said to me, ‘You know, Mom, a building is just a building,’” said the Clayton resident. “‘It’s important and it is grounded in all your memories but your memories, your experiences and your events live within you and they go with you wherever you go.’ ”

Carol Battle said she recalled being in the first class of adult women to become a bat mitzvah at the synagogue in 1976. She’s now with Kol Rinah.

“You have to go on,” said Battle whose grandfather was a charter member at Brith Sholom.  “I’m sad to see it go but I realize it is a transition. Life is a transition. Everything goes and this too shall pass.”

For some, BSKI was a reminder of family. Central Reform congregant Helene Frankel said her memories were of her father for whom she’d said kaddish here.

“It was my dad’s spiritual home,” said Frankel, who said her father had been shul president twice. “My dad was very, very devoted to the synagogue as was my maternal grandmother. The family goes back a long way in their connection to BSKI.”

Arlene Fox’s connection to BSKI also goes back a long way. She said that hers was the first marriage to take place in the building.

“I have more emotion than I really expected to have,” said Fox, who attended the weekend remembrance with her two youngest grandchildren. “I went to Sunday school at Brith Sholom. We got married here. My parents were extremely active here all the time. My mother was 82 years old packing Meals on Wheels here.”

Gerald Cohen, a fourth-generation congregant at the synagogue, said it was an emotional day but that it was also time to move forward. He said the thing he’d remember most was the High Holiday services when hundreds would pack the building.

“There was such fervor,” said the Kol Rinah member as he clutched an envelope with one of the souvenir tiles being given out from the building’s wall. “There was such emotion and it was just a wonderful feeling.”

Unfortunately, not all of the building’s memories were such happy ones. BSKI was the site of tragedy in October 1977 when neo-Nazi Joseph Paul Franklin pumped five shots into an unsuspecting crowd of bar mitzvah-goers, killing 42-year-old Gerald Gordon from a makeshift sniper’s nest behind a telephone pole. Franklin, a serial killer implicated in other racially motivated murders, confessed to the crime in the 1990s. After the trial, he said his only regret was that killing Jews was illegal however, Franklin expressed remorse and renounced anti-Semitism before his 2013 execution by lethal injection.

Lifelong member Ralph Graff, 83, recalled that the congregation even recognized the individual who brought the shooter to justice.

“We had really a very nice Shabbas where we honored the policeman who finally tracked this guy down,” he remembered. “He got up and spoke.”

The formation of Kol Rinah is Graff’s second merger as he was a congregant for the formation of BSKI. In fact, his grandfather, great-uncle and great-grandfather were founding members for legacy congregation Brith Sholom. He said that Kneseth Israel members mostly dwindled after the joining but, thankfully, he doesn’t feel that’s happening this time as both legacy congregations are well-represented in the new entity.

“If BSKI is going to survive in any way, it has got to be through the mechanism of Kol Rinah,” he said.

Mitch Shenker, Kol Rinah’s president, said the property is being sold. The transaction has not gone through closing yet, but the Richmond Heights City Council recently approved a plan for the land to be developed into a 42-unit townhouse by Atlanta-based Pulte Homes. Meanwhile, Kol Rinah is acquiring a church at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Hanley Road to become its new home.

Like others, congregant Gary Kodner, one of the driving forces behind the merger, said he was sad to see the old building go. Growing up nearby, he recalled playing in the construction site as a child and noted that there are commemorative plaques on the wall dating back to his great-grandparents. Still, he said, change is inevitable and the moment was bittersweet. “We’ve all had to leave buildings. We’ve all had to leave structures in our life behind,” he said. “It’s the memories that we are going to take with us.”

At the close of the ceremony, Arnow led the crowd outside for the day’s climactic act: the removal of the mezuzah. As attendees filed out the door, they passed a familiar sign on the wall one final time.

“If you are the last person out,” it read, “please make sure the lights are off and the door is firmly closed.”

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Special to the Jewish Light By David Baugher 
"The synagogue was dark and it was like magic because he has such an outstanding voice," he said. "No chazzan could ever hold a candle to him."

Jewish learning was always the focus for Skoff. It still is. Without that, it's impossible to do what Skoff identifies as the rabbi's primary job, "making mensches."

"The purpose of everything that you do is to cultivate people," Skoff explained. "Our children aren't born good or bad. They are born with potential. The purpose of the synagogue and a rabbi's work is to cultivate the good part that you see in every human being."

For Skoff, whose bachelors and masters degrees, as well as his doctorate, are all in the area of education, learning has always been central to rabbinic work. He still remembers growing up in Philadelphia, where his father, who used to wake him up at 6 a.m. for services, would often read Hebrew from the family's many Judaic books. Later, while Skoff was still a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, he was named principal of his congregation's religious school.

Even as he headed his own synagogue in Austin, Skoff taught Hebrew at the University of Texas. Worried that the classes would leave when he did, he made it a special point to extract a commitment from the incoming rabbi that he would carry them on. In fact, Skoff didn't stop there.

"I even made him promise that when he leaves he made sure that the next head of the congregation would also be able to teach Hebrew," he said.

To this day, the university still has a Hebrew program.

After stints at congregations in Minnesota and Michigan, Skoff finally found a home at Brith Sholom in 1959, the year before it merged with Kneseth Israel.

Meanwhile, his love of Jewish learning has spread to the family he and Rosalind, his wife of 58 years, raised here. Two of his five children are rabbis themselves. Both will speak at Saturday's event and the rest will be in attendance along with many of his dozen grandchildren. He also has two great-grandchildren.

Rosalind Skoff passed away in 2004.

"The family that we built I give her the credit for," he said. "I just helped her."

Skoff has met his fair share of notable people during his time as a rabbi. While visiting Israel, he called Menachem Begin on the phone and found himself invited over for an impromptu one-hour chat at the future prime minister's home.

In another instance, he got the chance to talk to Edward Teller, known as "the father of the hydrogen bomb," while hosting a television program in St. Louis. He confronted Teller with complaints from critics that his work had led only to increased potential for human carnage. Teller's response was immediate - and on target.

"He said that the first time people ever used iron, it was for weapons of war," Skoff recalled. "Afterwards, we learned how to use it for constructive things. I thought that was the right answer. I couldn't argue with that."

Skoff, who headed the St. Louis Rabbinical Association's radio and television committee, said that sometimes even he was surprised with the power TV had to promote dialogue. Once, while hosting Confluence, he spoke with representatives from both sides of the Yugoslavian civil war.

"These people who were enemies and would not speak to one another came together for this program," he said. "Afterwards, they stayed together for awhile and they were talking to each other. I was amazed."

But Skoff's primary work wasn't in the studio. It was in the pulpit where it always came back to the difficult task of mentsh manufacture. When young couples would marry, Skoff would always make it a point to tell them the story of the scholar Akiva, who had yet to achieve greatness when he married his wife Rachel but through her encouragement he became one of the foremost thinkers of his generation and she became a better person in the process. In the same way, Skoff said that he tells newlyweds to look for the best in each other and nurture those qualities. END

OBITUARY-Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Apr. 14 to Apr. 17, 2014
Skoff, Rabbi Benson April 13, 2014 Beloved and loving husband of the late Rosalind (nee Cohen); dearest father of Temima (Alan Gradman), Avi (Jayne), Hillel (Roberta), Joshua (Ilana Hoffer Skoff), Jonina (Randy Pritzker); devoted grandfather of Arielle (Jack Berlin), Gideon Gradman, Judah (Becky), Abby, Jonathan Gradman (Lexi Schieber Gradman), Rachel, Jared, Eden, Molly, Rebecca Pritzker, Hannah, Jacob Pritzker; great-grandfather of Benji Berlin, Sammy Berlin, Yuval Gradman; dear brother of Anne (Louis), Herman, Sam, Lee, Haya (Phil) (all deceased). Special uncle and great uncle. Spiritual leader, community leader, friend and advisor. Services: Funeral service Thursday, April 17th 3:30 p.m. at Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Congregation, 1107 Linden Avenue. Visitation Thursday 3:00 p.m. Interment Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery. Visit bergermemorialchapel.com for more information. BERGER MEMORIAL SERVICE

Rabbi Skoff attended the University of Pennsylvania and would receive his bachelor's, master and doctorate degrees in the field of education.Rabbi Benson Skoff replaced Rabbi Mazur in 1959. Rabbi Skoff had attended the United Conservative Seminary of America in New York. With this merger, the newly formed congregation, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel joined United Synagogue.

Brith Sholom’s beginning dates back further than Kneseth Israel. Brith Sholom was organized on November 2, 1906 and was located at 1020 Franklin Street. It was incorporated on December 8, 1908; and per the “Articles of Agreement,” on this date was “incorporated for the purpose of forming an Austrian-Hungarian conservative Jewish congregation (church) to erect or secure a suitable building wherein to carry on religious worship according to the Jewish orthodox usages connected with a religious Sabbath School and also to secure a cemetery.... Every Israelite can enter the congregation Brith Sholom (Covenant of Peace) and belong to the Synagogue (church) having all the privileges thereto, but only Austrian-Hungarian Israelites and their children can become active members.” Of course, the latter has long since changed to accept Jews of all origins as members.

Also stated in the “Articles of Agreement of 1908 was “The congregation will remain conservative (Jewish Orthodox), and the house of worship shall be so arranged so that the ladies and gentlemen shall be separated therein.”  This has also changed as “Articles” also stated, “The Congregation shall reserve the right to amend these articles.”

The Rabbi in 1906-1910 was Solomon H. Kohn. Current members, Ralph Graff and Carol Battle are descendants of the original charter members. From 1912-1923, the Rabbi was the Reverend Reverend Adolph A. Rosentreter. He was from Germany where he had served a congregation in Berlin. Dr. Rosentreter had been the first full-time Rabbi at B’nai Amoona, where he remained for 27 years. Reverend Rosentreter served  at B’nai Amoona, then Beth David, Brith Sholom, Beth Hamedrosch Hagodol and finally returned Brith Sholom, where he remained until he died on April 15, 1930. Reverend Rosentreter never received a salary from any of the synagogues as he earned a living in his brother’s Washington National Bank and its successor, The American Trust Company. He was in charge of savings accounts. He did not charge couples for weddings but, instead, gave each couple $5 out of his own pocket to get them started.

After the bank was sold, he went into the insurance business; but he never solicited customers - people just knew him and came to him to buy insurance. Reverend Rosentreter was also instrumental in the founding of Jewish Hospital. It is reported that the funeral for him was four blocks long and had six Rabbis present.

From 1911-1923, Brith Sholom was located on Glasgow from 1923-27, on Kingshighway and Enright; and from 1927-1959, at 6166 Delmar. (All within the city of St. Louis)

Succeeding Reverend Rosentreter was Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, the father of our own Naomi Silvermintz. He was with the congregation, first on Kingshighway and Enright and then at 6166 Delmar. The first Bat Mitzvah was of Tina Zorensky at the Delmar location. During this period the Rose Fischmann Library was started; Sylvin Robinson organized a baseball team; the sisterhood and men’s club came into being. And, step by step, the late Friday night service came about, Yiddish sermons became English sermons and separate seating became mixed seating.

In 1927, 3 years before Rabbi Mazur, arrived our beloved Hebrew School Principal, Jacob M. Elbaum, father of Leah Hakimian. Mr. Elbaum helped organize the Sunday School, Hebrew School and Junior Congregation. Mr. Elbaum “touched” every family, and he was particularly good with children, having prepared many for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. In 1983, Mr. Elbaum moved to Israel, where he remained until his death in 198--. He was buried in Israel.

In 1959, Rabbi Benson Skoff joined the congregation - while Brith Sholom was still on Delmar.

On June 5, 1960, the new Building at 1107 Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights was dedicated. At that time, Mrs. Jack (Betty) Chapnick was President of the Sisterhood and Paul M. Essman was President of the Men’s Club. Albert L. Felberbaum was General Chairman of the Linden Building Venture and Building Fund.The Campaign Chairmen were Ben Allen, William S. Cohen and Harry L. Gale. In Founders’ Hall is a list of the Founders of the Linden Center.

In a street procession, the Torahs were carried from the old places of worship to the chapel of the new center. Mezuzahs were attached to the door posts of the new building. The building was dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur-. He was a humanitarian, civic leader and active in the promotion of inter-faith understanding.

Years later, there was a “Retire the Mortgage” party, which almost all the members attended in Founders’ Hall. The occasion was Retirement of the Mortgage” on the building at the Linden address. Marsha Sterneck had gone to the Board of Brith Sholom and asked them if she could form a committee to retire the mortgage. The remaining mortgage was $39,000, so they needed 39 people to give $1,000 a piece. Marsha told the Board all would be collected or none; and all was collected.

At the Linden locations, the USY and USI were organized as well as a Boy Scout Troop. Bea and Burton Sorkin organized a singles groups and the Young Conservatives - the doers of the congregation. The Young Conservatives organized the ushers, the minyans, got school parents active and promoted the nursery school, to mention a few of their activities.

As the years passed on Linden, a choir emerged (including females), women started to be counted in the minyan and were called to the Torah. In 1991, Rabbi Benson Skoff became Rabbi Emeritus and the Sanctuary was names: Rabbi Benson Skoff Sanctuary. At the same time, Rabbi Mordecai Miller joined the Synagogue and was followed, in 1992, by Cantor Elliot Joel Portner.

October 15, 1994 - BSKI celebrated the completion of the beautification of the Synagogue, as a result of the successful Renewal campaign.. At the Gala, Founders, Past Presidents and descendants were recognized. The History of the Synagogue was presented in various forms and were added to the archives of the Synagogue to be used also for the 100th Anniversary in the year 2006.

Rabbi Akiba Lubow, Associate Rabbi

Born in Los Angeles, Lubow was raised in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. He received a B.A. in political science from Indiana University and worked in the political arena as a special assistant to then-Gov. Edmund “Jerry” Brown of California and the Campaign Treasure for Brown’s re-election campaign.

Leaving political life behind, Lubow studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, serving as class valedictorian when he was ordained in 1984. He worked for the Rabbinical Assembly, an international association of Conservative rabbis, before becoming a congregational rabbi and serving congregations in St. Louis, Missouri, Rochester, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Buffalo, before coming to Temple Beth El-Mekor Chayim in 2001.

At Temple Beth El, Lubow said he relished the chance to educate the congregation, both adults and children, and being part of the happy and sad moments that marked the lives of members of the congregation. As a faith leader in Cranford, Lubow said he was given the enjoyable chance to learn and meet with residents from all faiths and walks of life.

“I will certainly miss my involvement in the interfaith community here in Cranford,” Lubow said.


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RABBl MORDECAl MILLER 

Rabbi Miller has served BSKI with honor, passion and distinction for over 20 years. 

Rabbi Miller came to St. Louis from Canton, Ohio where he served as the Rabbi of Shaaray Torah Synagogue for ten years. Prior to his tenure at Shaaray Torah he spent seven years at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, Minnesota, two years as
Assistant Rabbi and five years as Associate Rabbi. 

The son of a Rabbi, Mordecai Miller was born in the United States and moved with his family to South Africa when his father, Rabbi Meyer Miller accepted a pulpit at Temple David in Durban. After receiving his B.A. from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, he returned to the United States and entered The Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati where he was ordained in 1974, receiving both B.H.L. and MAH.L. degrees. Rabbi Miller is a member and past-president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association. He has served on the boards of The Care and Counseling Association, and its clinical services committee, The St. Louis Jewish Light, The Fleischer Jewish Healing Center of
St. Louis and a past member of the Cabinet of the Interfaith Partnership. 

Over the years Rabbi Miller has taught various classes in bible and
rabbinics at BSKI and throughout the St. Louis community. He has taught mishna to the sixth grade at Solomon Schechter, offered courses at the Adult Melton Mini-School and the Robert F. Jacobs Adult Institute. 

Rabbi Miller and his wife Susan are parents of Sarah and Micah and proud grandparents of Miles Yehonatan.

Many years ago Burt Sorkin was putting together a BSKI Klezmer Band and I was contacted. People knew that I played the Trumpet and Burt invited me to be a member. I told him that I was way past my prime and needed another melody instrument to allow me time to rest a bit. I attended the first rehearsal and looked around. 

There was an Accordionist, a Guitarist, a Bass player, and a Drummer. And I knew that my playing endurance would really be stretched. Then Rabbi Miller walked in holding a small instrument case.

I asked him “What do you play, Rabbi?” I found out that he was a Clarinetist. We began playing a sher. I played the melody and Rabbi Miller was faking harmony to me. Then he played the Clarinet opening to George Gershwin’s Rapsody in Blue. And I realized, here is a player! My wife, Rachel (a Violinist), and I spent some very pleasant years playing next to Rabbi Miller and some other quite talented members of BSKI. I did some arranging for the group and became knowledgeable about music I had never played. Franklin & Rachel Haspiel

Rabbi:  am so sad you are leaving after 21 years that I shared with you. I will always have fond memories of our friendship and companionship.  You will be in my thoughts forever.  You are a great and truly dear friend and a great, great teacher. I have learned many things of Jewish law and Torah from your teachings. May G’d give you strength and Mazal and happiness for you, Susan, Sarah, Micha and Miles forever. Good luck in your new Shul. You will be missed. The Radinsky Family

Rabbi -Thank you for teaching, inspiring, encouraging, and comforting our family during the last twenty years.  Do know that the good a person does is usually unknown to them.

  We will never forget your thoughtful words as you addressed Micah and Rachel during their B’nai Mitzvot.  Thank you for encouraging them to dig deeply into the texts of their Parshiot, and for guiding them to a love of learning.   Thank you for joining us for the memorable evening in our Sukkah last fall. It was our privilege to host you!

Good luck in California, and may you and Susan enjoy many wonderful years in Sonoma County.  In Friendship, Stewart Shilcrat & Paula Lemerman

“I don’t know if I’ll make it to Heaven, but it sure is nice living next door,” Rabbi Miller is fond of saying. We can tell he loves living in Santa Rosa and serving as Rabbi of Congregation Beth Ami. In fact, when asked what advice he would give a new young rabbi, Rabbi Miller says, “You’ve got to be in love with your congregation.” And he is. And the feeling is mutual.

Growing up as an “RK” (rabbi’s kid) in Durban, South Africa, wasn’t that easy, but after earning his BA in philosophy and Hebrew at the University of Natal, Mordecai Miller returned to the US and, with the encouragement of his father, enrolled in Hebrew Union College. Since his father, Rabbi Meyer Miller, was a Reform Rabbi, Mordecai gravitated toward that branch of Judaism. He wasn’t entirely certain of his path, since his other great loves were mathematics and music. A leave of absence convinced him that he had left his true calling behind, and luckily the seminary took him back. This was fortuitous personally as well as career-wise because his future wife, Susan, was working at the school. They were introduced by mutual friends and have been together ever since.

A seminary professor required that the students become familiar with traditional liturgy as well as Reform, to understand the range of Jewish custom. Following his professor’s edict to daven the traditional prayers daily for a month, Mordecai fell in love with traditional liturgy. By the time he graduated with a BHL and MAHL and was ordained, he realized that his spiritual home was in Conservative Judaism. He was thrilled to secure a position as assistant Rabbi at a Conservative congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he served happily for seven years. There followed ten years in Canton, Ohio, and twenty-one years in St. Louis, Missouri.

His excellent Hebrew came from an early childhood visit to his mother’s family in Israel. That foundation was cemented by the fact that his parents spoke to each other in Hebrew when they didn’t want him to understand. When they realized he understood every word, they switched to Yiddish, and now he knows Yiddish very well, too.

As a teen, he’d read the Bible on the long bus rides to school. Later, at HUC, he learned Talmud and Midrash, studies which he enjoys to this day.

While the duties of a rabbi are many and varied, Rabbi Miller feels his chief task is to bring comfort into people’s lives. Another very important aspect of the job is connecting people to the deeper meaning of life and to our divine Creator, and making tradition alive and relevant for people.

What was the first thing he loved about Beth Ami? The MiSheberach envelopes. It’s a custom here to place envelopes in back of the sanctuary, addressed to those who are ill in the congregation. Congregants pick up these envelopes after services, add a personal note, and mail them. This custom “made Beth Ami seem like such a caring congregation. And I haven’t been disappointed.”

Rabbi Miller finds something spiritual about the area, with its hills, ocean, and magnificent views. “It has a wildness to it.” He frequently finds himself saying the verse, “mah gadlu ma’asecha Adonai, koolam b’chochmah aseeta. How manifold are Your works, oh Adonai, with wisdom You created them all.”

Among the things Rabbi Miller enjoys at Beth Ami are the spirited, participatory davening, the wonderful Shabbat potlucks and dinners—“they hold the community together”—and the many different types of people all working together.

Rabbi Miller and his wife, Susan Miller, shep nachas from the fact that both their children are involved in Jewish life. Their daughter Sarah, living here in Santa Rosa with her son, Miles, is USY regional director. Their son, Micah, living in LA with his wife, April (Aviva), studies at the Ziegler Rabbinical School. Micah hopes to become the third-generation Rabbi Miller.

In his free time, Rabbi Miller enjoys studying Jewish texts, reading, singing, playing the clarinet, cooking, and baking. Visitors and members passing by his open office door love hearing him practicing clarinet in anticipation of jammin’ with the band at Friday night dinners.

Beth Ami appreciates Rabbi Miller’s warm, welcoming, and inclusive manner; his appreciation of the people around him; and his emphasis on respectful communication. Oh, and his jokes.

A guy goes into a restaurant and says to the waiter, “I’d like a chicken sandwich.” The waiter replies, “Sir, I’m afraid we’re out of chicken.” The guy says, “Well, in that case, I’d like a turkey sandwich.” The waiter responds, “Sir, if we had any turkey, you would have had a chicken sandwich.” –by Esther Baruch
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Honoring the past with vision of the future 


It was 1908 when a group of Austrian and Hungarian Jews led by a Mr. I. Rossman organized a Conservative Jewish congregation in St. Louis and called it Brith Sholom. In 1910, Rabbi Adolph A. Rosentreter (Phyllis Dubinsky's grandfather) came to Brith Sholom as the shul's spiritual leader and continued until his death in 1930. Two years prior the congregation had purchased a building at 6616 Delmar and two years later established a Hebrew school under the leadership of School Principal Jacob M. Elbaum, an amazing man who served his congregation in that capacity for 56 years. On June 1, 1930, Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur became the rabbi of Brith Sholom where he continued until his death in 1959.

In the early 1940's, Jewish merchants along the wholesale garment district on Washington Avenue organized a daily minyan in a small office space in the area. Eventually that became congregation Kneseth Israel and, led by Nolan DeWoskin, it relocated to Rosebury in Clayton and later to South Hanley with Rabbi Sholom Rivkin as the spiritual leader until its merger with Brith Sholom in 1959. Now known as Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel, the merged congregation moved to its present location on Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights under the leadership of Rabbi Benson Skoff who was succeeded in 1991 by its current rabbi, Mordecai Miller.
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Fast forward to 2008.

On Sunday, Sept. 7 at BSKI, the congregation will celebrate its 100th anniversary at a gala event. In keeping with the theme of "honoring the past with a vision for the future," the honorees will be the past presidents of the merged congregations. Serving as honorary chairpersons are Bonnie and Phil Levens, Naomi and Saul Silvermintz (she is the daughter of the beloved Rabbi Mazur) and Rabbi Benson Skoff all of whom, according to co-chair of the gala Susan Cort "have provided outstanding leadership and commitment to the congregation."

The celebration will take place at BSKI beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and dinner for sponsors and patrons to be followed at 7:30 p.m. by a program honoring past presidents; a comedy presentation by hilariously funny comedian Joel Chasnoff; and concluding with a dessert buffet. Planned by Susan, her co-chair Marcia Sokol-Anderson and a huge committee, this will be a fun-filled evening of memories, fantastic foods, great company and a celebration of the past 100 years of BSKI. The dinner menu, I was told, will feature food popular from the past century such as Old Country foods from Hungary and Eastern Europe, with a bit of a modern twist emphasizing Israeli and Mediterranean dishes and today's international favorites. When I asked Susan what the dishes of the past would be, she said "You know, comfort foods from past generations."

Joel Chasnoff (no relation to the local Chasnoff family as closely as I have ascertained) is described as the Jewish comedian who's redefining Jewish comedy. His act is based on real Judaism and Jewish experiences -- such as his nine years in Jewish Day School, his service in the Israeli Defense Forces, and family Shabbat dinners. His resume is daunting as he has entertained in seven countries around the globe at some of the world's premier comedy venues as well as countless synagogues, colleges and clubs in the U.S. A portion of all revenue from Joel's performances and sales of his CD Hanukah Guilt is donated to charities promoting humanitarian causes.

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Jacob Elbaum

JERUSALEM - Funeral services were held recently on the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem for Jacob Elbaum, the noted veteran St. Louis Jewish educator. 

Mr. Elbaum, who was 82, died of heart.failure on Monday, Dec. 28, in Bersheba, Israel. He had made aliyah to Israel in February 1983. 

Jacob Elbaum was born in Safed, Palestine (now Israel) in 1905. He moved to St. Louis in 1926, and served as principal of the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Hebrew School from that year until 1970.

In addition w serving as prin­cipal of BSKI Hebrew School, Mr. Elbaum taught many genera­tions of students in St. Louis for an educational career that spanned over 56 years. In December 1982, in recognition of his contributions to Jewish education, Mr. Elbaum received the Jewish Federation's Fred A. Goldstein memorial Service  Award for Outstanding Jewish Communal Service. 

Mr. Elbaum was also active in numerous other Jewish causes. He served as president  of the St. Louis Council of the Jewish National Fund; president­ of the Hebrew Language and Cultural Association; secretary of -BSKI Congregation; presi­dent of the Hebrew Teachers Union and a long-time volunteer for State of Israel Bonds. 

Upon his aliyah to Israel, BSKI established a woodland in his honor in the Jewish Educa­tors forest in Jerusalem. 

The family requests that con­tributions in Mr. Elbaum's memory be sent to BSKI Con­gregation, 1101 Linden, St. Louis, Mo. 63117. 

Survivors are daughters Leah Hakimian of St. Louis and Ruth Shane of Beersheba; brothers Paul Elbaum, Kansas City Mo. and Shimon Oelbaum: Netanya, Israel and grand­children David, Michael and Lori Makovsky; Rina, Debra, Karen and Aliza Hakimian; Yaron, Chava, Ariel, Michal and Noa Shane.

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Harvey Sachs Dies; was Congregation Executive
BSKI Executive Director 1962-1978

Funeral services for Harvey Sachs, a show salesman for 40 years and executive director of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel for 16 years. Muriel was at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, Chesterfield.

Mr. Sacks 86 died Thursday September 11, 1980, at Jewish Hospital. A native of New York City, he came to St. Louis in 1916 and joined his brother Irving, in the former Shoe Styles, Inc. in the late 1920s. Mr Sachs traveled the midwest extensively for more than 40 years, particularly in Illinois and Indiana. He retired form the show business in 1962 and worked full time as executive director of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel until his retirement in 1978. he became Director Emeritus in 1978 and worked part time until being hospitalized in July, 1980.

Survivors include: his daughter, Sally Enoch, bother Ben, and sister Lillian DeWoskin, sister Jennie Fleschman, and four grand daughters. His wife Belle died in 1964.

St. Louis Jewish Light, June 22, 1977
BSKI Names Milton Rossner - Executive Director

Milton A. Rossner has been appointed executive director of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel. Rossner has been affiliated with the congregation for 20 years, having been a member of the BSKI choir and scout master of BSKI Scout Troop 117 for four years. He has been active in Young Couples Club (YCC), Men’s Club and Central States Regional of the National Federation of Men’s Clubs. he has also held the office of Vice President of BSKI. harvey Sachs has been named Exec. Director Emeritus of BSKI and will be in charge of daily minyan and Sabbath and holiday services.

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Rabbis/Hazzans
Brith Sholom Rabbis

1908-1910 – Dr. Solomon H. Kohn
1908-1910 – Reverend S. Jacoby, Chazzan
Dec. 29, 1912 – 1930 – Rabbi Adolf A. Rosentreter
1930-1958 – Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur
Kneseth Israel Rabbi
1956-1959 – Rabbi Sholom Rivkin
Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Rabbis/Hazzans
1959-1991 – Rabbi Benson Skoff, Ph. D.
1987-1990 – Rabbi Akiba Lubow, Associate Rabbi
1991-2012 – Rabbi Mordecai Miller
1975-Cantor Irving Grossman
1982- Cantor Paul Stone
1984- Cantor Gary Zener
1985-Cantor Aryeh Katzir
1959-1990 Nolan DeWoskin, Morris Sapot (volunteers)
1992-2005 – Hazzan Elliot Joel Portner

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Shaare Zedek History

Shaare Zedek History (more to come) 

Rabbi Israel Lebendiger, 1886-1954
Rabbi Lebendiger served Congregation Shaare Zedek, St. Louis, Missouri for over 6 years (1922-1928) and he is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. He was installed at Shaare Zedek on November 25, 1922. Representatives from all synagogues were in attendnance. Mar. David Baron was chairman of the event and Cantor G. Weinhaus led the choir in singing.
lebendiger was a Talmudic Scholar and graduate of Columbia University in New York and the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Rabbi Lebendiger was born in the town of Grodno, Poland-Lituania, near Pinsk, Poland. Grodno is now considered part of Belarus. He came to the United States via Rotterdam, Holland on the Statendam vessel and arrived on August 15, 1904. He was unmarried at the time and traveled alone. Held other rabbinic positions in Youngstown, OH and Daluth, MN.
Married Carrie Liberman on April 10, 1921, West Hoboken, New Jersey
He died at the age of 77.
What is unique about the Jewish Theological Seminary diploma presented to Rabbi Lebendiger in 1914 (image can be found at the right of this page) are the 7 unique signatures that appear at the bottom of the diploma. These faculty members, distinguished educators, and administrators at the time of this 1914 class were some of the most learned scholars of their time.
Rabbi Solomon Schechter (1850-1915)
Rabbi Louis Ginzberg (1873-1953)
Rabbi Alexender Marx (1878-1953)
Dr. Israel Davidson (1870-1939)
Rabbi Israel Friedlander (1876-1920)
Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983)
Rabbi Joshua A. Joffe (1862-1935)
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Rabbi Chaim Fishel Epstein, 1874-1942
Rabbi Epstein served as Chief Rabbi, St. Louis, Missouri for the Vaad Hoeir of the United Orthodox Community for 12 years (1930-1942) and he is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. The full list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS.
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Chaim Fishel Epstein was the Chief Rabbi of St. Louis, Missouri from 1930 until his death in 1942. He was born in Taurogen, Lithuania to David Shlomo Epstein and Tzpa Shersehevsky. He was married to Ethel Novidello, also of Russia. According to the book, Orthodox Judaism in America, he was considered a child prodigy and was sent by his father to study at the Telshe yeshiva, a famous Eastern European yeshiva founded by three important Orthodox rabbis. By age 16, Chaim Fishel Epstein had written his first book. By the age of 18 he had been granted rabbinical ordination from the Volozhin yeshiva in Belarus. When it closed in 1892, he returned home and married shortly thereafter. He published Hebrew poetry and in 1902 became one of the founders of the Mizrachi movement of religious Zionists after attending a Zionist conference in Minsk in 1902. Later, in the US, he became known as one of the champions of religious Zionism. From 1898-1908 he was rabbi of Chorzhova near Minsk. Then he became rabbi of Sainee near Minsk until the outbreak of WWI. In 1917 a group of Estonian Jewish communities appointed him chief rabbi of the region, which was centered in Tartu where he also completed a PhD and lectured in Jewish philosophy in the university. In 1921 he became rabbi of Libau, Latvia and one of the leaders of the Latvian Mizrachi. He immigrated to the US in 1923. From 1923-1930 he served as rabbi in New Jersey, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Brooklyn where his orthodox, kosher views came into conflict with more liberal, reform Jews. In 1930 he was appointed Chief Rabbi of the United Orthodox Community of St. Louis and its Vaad Hair. Upon his death, he left behind his wife, five sons and two daughters. END
Chief Rabbi, St. Louis, Missouri
d. 20 Tammuz, 1942 (5702)
Orthodox rabbi. Born in Taurogen, Lithuania, Rav Epstein was recognized for his brilliance at an early age. After studying Talmud at the famed Telshe Yeshiva, he wrote his first book, Chinukh le-Na'ar (a commentary on Aaron Ha-Levi's Sefer ha-chinukh), at age 16. 

That same year, he entered the Volozhin yeshivah, studying under its famed leaders, Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin and Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. At only 18 years of age, he was ordained by Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Shelomo Cohen of Vilna.
Notably, he also studied secular subjects, which many other Orthodox rabbis of his time at a gymnasium in Shedlitz and displayed an energetic interest in Eretz Yisroel (Land of Israel). The Rav was affiliated with the Chovevei Tzion movement founded by Rav Shmuel Mohilever.

At age 24 he began a series of rabbinical positions, including Grosowa (near Minsk) and Sainee, where he remained until the outbreak of World War I. Toward the end of the war, he was named chief rabbi of an Estonian Jewish region. During this time, the Rav completed a Ph.D. degree and taught Jewish philosophy at the local university. Declining invitations to serve congregations in London and Liverpool, he immigrating to the U.S. in 1923. where he served many communities. Among them Bayonne, NJ; Cleveland; Cincinnati; and Brooklyn. Like many of his colleagues from Eastern Europe, he faced resistance from more liberal lay leaders and congregants regarding standards of Jewish practice, particularly kashrs. Yet his reputation as a scholar assured that many rabbinical colleagues and lay leaders came to him to adjudicate matters of Jewish law. 

In 1923, he served as a rabbinical judge in a kashrus dispute between two prominent Canadian rabbonim. The Rav wrote several volumes of highly regarded responsa, including Teshuvah Shelemah. A second volume addressing matters of American concern was published in 1940.

The Rav lived his later years in St. Louis, serving as chief rabbi of the United Orthodox community and head of the city's newly established Va'ad ha-Ir. He remained the leading Orthodox rabbi in St. Louis until his death. END

(This content appeared along with a Hebrew biography text written by Rabbi Chaim Karlinsky. The book was part of an EBAY auction 7-29-2013)

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Rabbi Ephraim Epstein 1908-1971
Rabbi Epstein served Congregation Shaare Zedek, St. Louis, Missouri for over 35 years (1934-1969). This would be his only pulpit. He is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations.

A RABBI FOR GENERATIONS
from The First Hundred Years
by Jody S. Feldman
Published 2005
Reproduced with permission

He didn't stand very tall, but his presence loomed larger than any in the sanctuary. Inevitably, during a lull in the service, whatever service, there'd come time when congregants would begin some social whispering. The whispers would become widespread murmurs. And he'd stand, staring with a deafening silence that quieted the room. Then in his clear, distinct voice, he'd continue the service. Later, those same scolding eyes would hold a twinkle, his voice would tell a joke, and his face would offer a ready smile for everyone. Especially children.

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein was almost still a child himself in 1934, the year he received his ordination from Yeshiva University of New York City, married Miss Louise Gorodinsky and was installed as spiritual leader of Shaare Zedek Synagogue.

This Rabbi Epstein had a great and lofty tradition and a magnificent heritage to uphold. As the 16th generation of an unbroken line of rabvbis on his maternal side, he was also a direct descendant, on his paternal side.=, of the Ga0n Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, the chief Rabbi of Prague during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa in rhe 1760's. More recently, the footprints of his reverend father, the late Chaim Fishel Epstein, who was the chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish community, were deeply imprinted, but Rabbi Ephraim Epstein filled them admirably and made impressions of his own.

He may not have founded our congregation, may have arrived nearly 30 years after our inception, but to many, Rabbi Epstein and Shaare Zedek will be inextricably entwined.

Together, through the years, Rabbi Epstein and Shaare Zedek experienced periods of financial recession, depression and progression. With growth and neighborhood shifts, there were times when the High Holy Days services had to be conducted at the YMHA, in private homes and in a tent, but the congregation's fervor and zeal remained steadfast, honoring the rabbi's sincerity, enthusiasm and dynamism.

Rabbi Epstein had vision as well. Because Shaare Zedek began as an Orthodox synagogue, women and men sat separately during services. When the time came to build our new sanctuary, the younger members of the congregation insisted they be allowed to sit together. They also wanted a microphone. With an eye toward the future, Rabbi Epstein agreed, though with a compromise. For those who still wanted the separation of the sexes, the men sat on the right of the synagogue, the women on the left and couples in the middle.

Rabbi Epstein was devoted to Jewish learning. When the head of our community's Jewish Education cut one of our programs, the rabbi fought for his teacher and demanded the program be reinstated. He was an advocate, a community leader, but most of all a teacher. How he loved Jewish history.

The one thing Rabbi Epstein was not, was a parent. He and Louise had no children. However, all his love and devotion was directed toward his congregants.

In his 30-plus years of service, Rabbi Epstein served some families of the synagogue for four generations, always with understanding. deep concern and close personal interest. His own faith and determination to face up to and overcome adversity stood as pillars of strength for those around him. Shaare Zedek was his first and only congregation. Together we grew wiser, stronger and able to face the future with confidence. END

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Rabbi Arnold Asher 1935-1978
Congregation B'nai Amoona - Assistant Rabbi (1963-1965)
Congregation B'nai Amoona - Associate Rabbi (1965-1967)
Shaare Zedek Synagogue - Senior Rabbi (1967-1978)
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The Jewish Theological Seminary
THE LIBRARY
Rabbi Arnold Asher (intro to the Asher archives)

Rabbi Arnold Asher was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935 and reared in Passaic, New Jersey. Rabbi Asher received a B.A. from Yeshiva College and a teachers' diploma from the Teachers' Institute of Yeshiva University, 1957; a Masters of Hebrew Letters form The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1961; and rabbinic ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1963. Rabbi Asher also studied in Israel and at Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, ca. 1967-1978. In 1961 he married Nira Libai. He died suddenly in 1978 in St. Louis. They had three children, Naomi, Ruth, and Jaron.

With the exception of student pulpits and the Kingsbridge Home for the Aged in Passaic, New Jersey prior to his rabbinic ordination, Rabbi Asher's entire rabbinic career was spent in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1963 to 1967 he served at B'nai Amoona Congregation, first as assistant rabbi, 1963-1965, then as associate rabbi, 1965-1967. From 1967 until his death, Rabbi Asher was associated with Congregation Shaare Zedek, assuming the position of senior rabbi in 1971.

Rabbi Asher took an active role in community affairs, particularly in political and social action. From 1965 to 1966 he served on the Board of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, and was later involved with Breira (1975-1978). He also served as president and treasurer of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association; as a member of a budget committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Louis; and on the boards of Jewish Family and Children Services, H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, and the Citizen's Committee on Court Reform.

For more information about Rabbi Asher, see: Don't Cry for Arnie, edited by Jack and Sue Reimer (St. Louis, 1979) an anthology of writings by and about Rabbi Asher.

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St. Louis Globe-Democrat
June 13, 1963

ARNOLD ASHER ORDAINED RABBI

Arnold Asher, who was recently appointed rabbi of Congregation B'nai Amoona, was ordained rabbi, teacher and preacher at the 69th commencement of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America held Sunday, June 9.

Rabbi Asher was educated at Yeshiva College and the Teachers Institute of Yeshiva University. In 1961, he received the degree of master of Hebrew literature from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, located in New York City. He served as rabbi at the Home of the Aged and Infirm Hebrews (1), New York, and has taught at Temple Emanuel and Congregation Adas Israel, both in Passaic, New Jersey.

(1) Became The Jewish Home and Hospital for Aged and most recently, is now known as The Jewish Home and Hospital Lifecare System.

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St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 12, 1978
POLICE RECOVER CAR HIJACKED FROM RABBI

A car stolen from a University City rabbi who died of an apparent heart attack after being threatened by a gun-wielding hitchhiker was found about 9:30pm Tuesday by police.

The car was found in the 4200 block of McRee by Officer Harvey Laux. The car was empty and unlocked, police said.

Rabbi Arnold Asher, 43, of Shaare Zedek Synagogue, 829 N. Hanley Road, died at 12:34a.m. Tuesday at Incarnate Word Hospital after jumping out of his car when a hitchhiker pulled a pistol and ordered Rabbi Asher to drive to Belleville police said.

The hitchhiker then drove off in Rabbi Asher's car--a gray 1969 Rambler American--and authorities were continuing their search for the auto late Tuesday.

Before he collapsed at the hospital, Rabbi Asher told the security guard there the following story, police said.

Rabbi Asher, driving north on South Grand Boulevard about 11:45p.m. Monday, picked up a hitchhiker described as white, about 21 years old, 6-feet 2-inches tall, having a thin build and a beard and thin mustache.

The hitchhiker pulled out a pistol and ordered Rabi Asher to drive him to Belleville and Rabbi Asher said, "Please don't hurt me. I have a bad heart. You can have my car and wallet."

When Rabbi Asher neared Interstate 44 he told the hitchhiker, "I don't care if you shoot me. I am getting out of the car."

Rabbi Asher then jumped out of his car and ran to nearby Incarnate Word Hospital. The security guard, Manuel Santacruz, 29, told police that Rabbi Asher was holding his chest and appeared to be out of breath.

After telling Santacruz his story, Rabbi Asher phoned his wife, Nira, and told her only that he had had car trouble.

Rabbi Asher, who lived in University City and had been a rabbi at the synagogue for 11 years, then collapsed and was treated by hospital personnel. He died at 12:34a.m.

Police were told that Rabbi Asher was seen at Barney's Place, 3012 S. Grand, about 11:30p.m. He bought two six-packs of beer and was seen talking to a man on the street, but witnesses did not see the man's face, police reported.

Rabbi Asher received his B. A. degree from Yeshiva University and studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received the M. H. L. (Master of Hebrew Letters) degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, and was ordained there in June 1963. He served as assistant rabbi and director of Jewish studies at B'nai Amoona Congregation in University City from July 1963 until 1967.

In addition to his wife, Rabbi Asher is survived by three children: Naomi Jacqueline, 14; Ruth Tamar, 12; and Jaron Michael, 9; his parents, Phillip and Jeanette Asher; a brother, Dr. Harvey Asher; and a sister, Laurie Meagher.

Funeral services will be at 11:30a.m. Wednesday at Shaare Zedek Synagogue, followed by burial in B'nai Amoona Cemetery. END

Rabbi Asher's papers, sermons and other personal rabbinic records are maintained by The Library Collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Donation of the materials was made by the Rabbi's widow, Nira Asher-Geller in 1990.

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Cantor Paul Dubrow
Singing for your supper
BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN, EDITOR – 

If I can, I like to work out around 4, 4:30 p.m. — in time to watch either reruns of “Law & Order: SVU” or “Jeopardy” — and right before the J becomes super crowded. The only problem is that I’m often competing with a guy who likes to work out at the same time as me, on the same machine.

I’ll admit I’ve muttered some not nice things about this guy when I’m ready to work out and find him on “my machine.” Then, as circumstances would have it (as they often do in the St. Louis Jewish community), I not only met the guy but also learned how he is living out his golden years. After serving as a cantor at Congregation Shaare Zedek for 25 years, Paul DuBro has taken his cantorial show on the road.

“I’ve been in Vancouver, Phoenix, Teaneck, N.J., Albuquerque and now, Charleston, W.V.,” said DuBro, 65. “It’s given me a wonderful opportunity to see congregations all over North America and to travel. It’s been a really warm experience.”

As a freelance cantor, DuBro primarily applies for jobs for the High Holidays. Whatever congregation hires him typically pays his way to and from that city, plus room and board during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and a negotiated salary. DuBro and his wife, Marty Schaeffer, executive director of Kol Rinah Early Childhood Center, then spend the 10 days or so between the holidays touring the area on their own.

However, getting the job in the first place, isn’t all that easy. “I understand there are about 40 applications for each position,” said DuBro, whose “day job” is working in insurance. “Applicants range from (cantorial) students to cantors without congregations to retired cantors.”

Congregations looking for seasonal help tend to be small and cannot afford a fulltime cantor. DuBro sends a recording and then if selected, goes through a formal interview to secure the job. Come fall, he will return to Congregation B’nai Jacob in Charleston, W.V. for the second year to help conduct High Holiday services. The “Conservadox” congregation, as DuBro describes it, has about 250 families from throughout the state and a fulltime rabbi, who DuBro says is “extremely welcoming and collaborative.”

Not all of these gigs are something to sing about. 

“I did a Passover cruise, which sounds wonderful, but they worked me to death,” said DuBro. “Still, the food was really delicious.”

After hearing about my new best friend Paul DuBro, I began thinking about possibilities for my retirement. Specifically, I wondered if there are any Jewish communities out there, especially in Hawaii, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Florida, in need of a freelance editor to help produce a newspaper for the High Holidays. In the meantime, at least I’ll have first dibs on my machine between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

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Rabbi Mark Fasman

Life is a journey. Though there are many common “tours,” each journey presents gateways through which each person ultimately chooses their own unique path.

Rabbi Fasman's journey has taken him from music to the rabbinate. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but crossed the country to attend college at Cornell Universityand then Indiana University(where he received his doctorate in music and, more importantly, met his wife Alice).

Rabbi Fasman has always been a teacher. Both of his parents are retired teachers. He began his professional teaching career as a professor of music at Minnesota State University (Moorhead), a position he held for sixteen and a half-years. Meanwhile, he served as principal trumpet of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony and maintained an active career as a performer.

When the small Jewish community of Fargo, North Dakota, found itself without a rabbi, Mark was drawn into ever greater positions of leadership in the Jewish community. Eventually, he was president of the congregation, then rabbinic aide. He led High Holy Day and Shabbat services, directed the religious school, trained Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, and officiated at life-cycle events

In 1995, he entered rabbinical school at the University of Judaism. Four years later, Rabbi Fasman was ordained in the first ordination class of the newly independent Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Fasman's first pulpit was at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, where he served on the rabbinic staff for two years with Senior Rabbi David Wolpe.
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Kol Rinah to pay tribute to Rabbi Mark and Alice Fasman


On Oct. 24 and 25, Kol Rinah will pay tribute to Rabbi Mark Fasman, Kol Rinah’s first rabbi, and to Alice Fasman, for their years of dedication and service in St. Louis. Rabbi Fasman becomes Kol Rinah Rabbi Emeritus on Nov. 1.

The Fasman Appreciation Weekend will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, with Kol Rinah’s own melodic Kabbalat Shabbat Service, developed and written by Rabbi Fasman.   The service will feature the Kol Rinah Band.

On Saturday, Oct. 25, beginning at 9 a.m., Appreciation Shabbat continues with services that will include speakers from the congregation and community as well as gift presentations. Following services, there will be a special Kiddush prepared by the Kol Rinah Sisterhood and sponsored by the Sisterhood and the Kol Rinah Board of Directions.

All activities will be held at Kol Rinah, 829 North Hanley Road in University City.

Rabbi Fasman began his tenure in St. Louis in 2001, just before Sept. 11, congregation leaders noted. One week later, as a shaken congregation gathered for Rosh Hashanah services, he comforted worshippers not only with his words but also for the first time with his now well known, transformative shofar rendition of “Taps.”  During his years at Shaare Zedek Synagogue and then at Kol Rinah, he made the congregation’s Torah and the bimahaccessible by having a new lightweight Torah scroll written and by having the reader’s platform lowered and easily reached by ramps. His focus on inclusion, congregation leaders said, was welcoming and supportive to members of interfaith families. He also became known as a superlative teacher — constantly offering to teach and discuss issues of interest or concern.  As Rabbi Emeritus, Fasman will maintain his office at Kol Rinah, and will continue teaching classes and offering counseling.

Kol Rinah will also honor Alice Fasman “for her years of dedication, beautiful voice and her skill in leading us at services whenever she is needed.”

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Hazzan Joanna Dulkin
Shaare Zedek Hazzan Dulkin accepts new post in N.J.
By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Kol Rinah means “joyous voice” and St. Louis’s newest synagogue will now be in the market for a new one with the departure of Hazzan Joanna Selznick Dulkin, which was announced late last week.

“St. Louis has been and continues to be a wonderful place for our family and I am deeply grateful for the generous offer extended to me to continue as your Hazzan,” read a letter Dulkin wrote to Kol Rinah congregants. “However, after much soul-searching, we have decided that a return to the East Coast provides broader career opportunities for my husband and allows us to rejoin the family and community we left seven years ago.”

In a release by the congregation, Shaare Zedek Synagogue President Steve Keyser praised Dulkin’s influence.

“Joanna energized us with her passion, engaged us through music and encouraged new families to join,” said Keyser. “We will continue down that path with the same commitment and energy she brought to our community.”

Dulkin has spent more than six years with Shaare Zedek, which is now in the process of merging with Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel to form Kol Rinah. 

Dulkin has accepted a new job as hazzan of the Jewish Center in Princeton, N.J.

“Obviously, we’re sorry to see the hazzan go,” said Keyser in an interview with the Light, “but we understand her reasons for taking the position.”

Keyser said Dulkin had meant a great deal to Shaare Zedek.

“We’re a very musical congregation and she’s attracted a lot of young families,” he said. “She will definitely be missed both professionally and personally.”

Keyser said that the position will be replaced and the decision would be taken on behalf of Kol Rinah, not just Shaare Zedek.

“Whatever we do from a standpoint of searching for klei kodesh would be a joint process that we would do as a merged congregation,” he said.

Keyser said the personnel committee has begun the work of contacting cantorial groups and associations, including the Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York to seek candidates for the job. Dulkin also said she had accepted an invitation to help with the process.

Shaare Zedek and Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel, which voted to merge late last year, are already worshipping together and will continue to combine operations over the course of the spring and summer before moving into the Shaare Zedek location after the High Holidays. That move is described as a near-term relocation, expected to last about three to five years as the new congregation ponders the question of a permanent home.

Keyser said BSKI has no one employed at present as a cantor.

Interviewed by the Jewish Light, Dulkin, who is set to depart sometime in June and assume her new duties the following month, said she fell in love with Shaare Zedek instantly upon coming to town.

“There are so many wonderful memories. It’s strange to think of them as memories because I’m still living it,” she said. “The people that I connected with here in the congregation I will hope to stay connected to. It’s a very special community to me and all the music we’ve made over the years is very special.”

During her tenure, Dulkin was instrumental in creating the DorWays program, an educational initiative for younger members and their families. It has since become a mainstay of life at the shul.

“We had a congregant come forward and sponsor the program because he was so inspired by how his grandchildren were so engaged and loving being Jewish so I’m really proud of that,” she said.

She also said Friday night services have been revitalized with a Shabbat Rinah participatory musical format.

“When I got to the synagogue there were maybe 10 to 20 people who would show up on a Friday night and now we get between 45 and 300 depending on the event,” she said.

Shaare Zedek’s Rabbi Mark Fasman said the hazzan’s legacy won’t be forgotten.
“She’s meant a great deal,” he said. “She’s been a transformative force over the years in the sense that she brought a kind of talent as well as personality that were able to establish a different level of music in our worship services.”

Fasman said some cantors have a strong voice while others have ability as a song leader.

“She happens to have both and that’s very rare,” he said.

An exact timeframe on the search for a replacement isn’t set but Keyser didn’t think the merger would affect it.

“The way we’ve been operating since the vote to merge occurred last year was to form committees that were made up of both legacy congregations,” he said, “and that includes personnel so I don’t think that the merger process is in any way going to impact the timeline.”

He said he recalled that it took about a year to find Dulkin.
“Our focus is on the right person, not how fast it happens,” he said.

Dulkin said her immediate future won’t just involve her new duties. She will co-chair the Cantors Assembly convention this May and is set to be named an officer in that organization. In addition, she sits on a committee that is working on a new siddur for the Conservative Movement.

“I have taught entire families of children for b’nai mitzvah, watched babies grow into kindergarteners and kindergarteners to sixth graders,” she said in her farewell letter. “It has been my privilege to stand with you in times of sorrow, to simply sit with you when there were no words, to sing or pray with you as the moment allowed. It continues to be my joy to dance and celebrate with you, to teach and learn with you.”

Dulkin, a native of northern California, is married to husband Ryan, a Jewish studies professor. The couple has two children, fourth-grader Zac and first-grader Jesse.


A rising star in the national arena, Hazzan Joanna Dulkin joined The Jewish Center in Princeton, NJ during the summer of 2013. During her seven-year tenure at Shaare Zedek synagogue of St. Louis, MO, she transformed the Friday night service, revamped the B'nai Mitzvah program, and created a family education program, among other initiatives.

The New Jersey Jewish News described Cantor Dulkin as “a Conservative cantor deeply rooted in the Reform movement’s ‘songleader tradition.’

Originally from Palo Alto, CA, Cantor Dulkin is an honors graduate of Stanford University, where she studied English, sang a cappella, and led community High Holiday services at Hillel. After working for several years as an independent Jewish music educator and performer, Hazzan Dulkin entered the Jewish Theological Seminary's H.L. Miller Cantorial School and earned her Masters of Sacred Music and Investiture in 2004, receiving the Hazzan David J. Leon Prize for a graduate demonstrating promise in the cantorial field.  She was the founding Music Director at Camp Ramah Darom, is a published writer and composer and currently serves on the Rabbinical Assembly's committee to create a new prayer book for the Conservative movement.

Hazzan Dulkin is married to Rabbi Dr. Ryan Dulkin, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall University in Lancaster, PA.  The couple has two sons and resides in Princeton, NJ.
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Shaare Zedek Stained Glass

SZ/Kol Rinah Chapel Stained Glass Windows

The Diamond Chapel/Guller Chapel windows, installed in 1954, provide a daily reminder of the ten commandments. They are thought to be the first 3-dimensional stained glass windows in the U.S.
They were designed by artist, Rodney Winfield , while working for Robert Frei, head of the Emil Frei Associates glass company in St. Louis. The windows were designed by Winfield in close consultation with Rabbi Ephraim Epstein who provided the inspiration and Judaic themes.

The Windows are divided into 2 sections of windows divided in the center by the ark: NORTH WINDOW: Comensly Window and SOUTH WINDOW-The Exodus Window (in memory of Mae Rich Liebert)

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Ten Commandment Windows:
1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt:
Burning Bush, pyramids with rain on the right to denote the plagues, parting waters, doorposts with mezuzah and lamb’s blood to protect the first born Israelites form death, hand of Moses holding a star is surrounded by Passover lamb and the plagues.
2. You shall have no other God beside me:
Broken idols and pyramids, hand formed in the manner of the priestly benediction
3.You shall not utter the name of the lord in vain: The rod becoming a serpent in miracle performed for the Pharaoh. In our tradition the Garden of Eden story represents the freedom of man to choose between good and evil, serpent has artist’s initials (RW) and the year the windows were created (1954). Frozen metal serpent on a rod in front of the window acts as a link between both windows.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy: Menorah, pouring forth waters of Gods holiness and purity, the days of creations.
5. Honor your father and mother: Abstract people
6. You shall not murder: Blood and sacrificed scapegoat are positive/alternative responses to killing of Isaac by Abraham.
7. You shall not commit adultery: The seeds of Creation
8. You shall not steal: Positive form in terms of horns and walls of Jericho where God in his mercy gave the promised land to Israel. God’s giving is also in the smoking Mt. Sinai as a symbol of the giving of the Ten Commandments at the left of the scapegoat.
9. You shall not testify falsely against your neighbor: No memory of this interpretation
10. You shall not covet: Illustrated by the reading of the admonition moving toward the house with Succot fruits and wheat.

Also depicted in the windows: a horse that could be the triumphant heralding of the messianic trumpets, the wall could be depicting the western wall of the temple, and the houses could be representing the city of Jerusalem.

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Art and Faith
by Ellen Futterman, Editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light

More than a half-century ago, roughly from 1953-1956, an incredible set of stained glass windows were designed and installed in the sanctuary and chapel of Shaare Zedek Synagogue in University City. In 2013, Shaare Zedek merged with Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel to become Kol Rinah and in 2016, the new congregation agreed to swap buildings with the Journey Christian Church in Clayton.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, June 11, a final, hour-long ceremony will be held to commemorate the last time the Kol Rinah sanctuary will be used, with Rabbi Noah Arnow presiding. The public is invited to attend. Within a few days following this event, the windows will be boarded up as the sanctuary building undergoes extensive renovations by the Journey.

Eventually the windows will likely be moved to Kol Rinah’s new location at 7701 Maryland Ave. Also moving to the new space will be 10 very large Boccia paintings that once adorned BSKI; two are on display on either side of the Torah ark at the current Kol Rinah, at 829 N. Hanley Road, and the others are in storage.

“We are committed to utilizing both these sets of art (the stained glass windows and the paintings) in our new home, as much as is humanly possible,” said Dr. Randi Mozenter, president of Kol Rinah, noting the fragility of the glass. “These wonderful works of art mean a great deal to both legacy congregations. They are historically very significant, a magnificent spiritual representation and bring such beauty and meaning to our sacred space.”

The windows, which share abstract designs and three-dimensional features, were designed by renowned artist Rodney Winfield, who at the time worked as a designer for Emil Frei Stained Glass Company in St. Louis. The themes were inspired by Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, who served Shaare Zedek until the late 1960s.

Winfield, now 92 and living in Carmel, Calif., has created other important works including a bronze and steel Ark Wall for Temple Israel in St. Louis and stained glass windows for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The paintings at BSKI, which had been located in Richmond Heights, were created by Edward E. Boccia, an internationally known American painter who died in St. Louis in 2012 at the age of 91. He was a longtime professor at Washington University. 

His work is included in the several museum collections, including the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis University Museum of Art and Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and more than 600 private collections.

Mozenter said temple leaders do not want to recreate the look of the sanctuary currently at Kol Rinah but rather incorporate these works of art so they complement the new space. She added the move should be complete by the end of 2018.

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Rodney Winfield Bio

Artist Rodney Winfield was born in New York City in 1925. From an early age, he was artistically inclined; he composed music, drew and painted, danced, wrote poetry, and created sculptures. As a young man, he studied music composition with composer Carl Ruggles. Choosing to focus on fine art, he attended Cooper Union School of Art in New York City. After moving to St. Louis, Missouri, in his twenties, he started working at Emil Frei Stained Glass Company as a designer, and is still an active associate member of the Frei Company to this day. He has had an outstanding and lengthy career in liturgical and fine art. His work encompasses various media: Stained glass, silver repousse, painting and sculpture. Examples of his work are found in major collections, churches and synagogues throughout the country. Rodney was a Professor of Art at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, for well over 20 years. He retired from teaching, and now resides in Carmel, California.

Well Known Stained Glass Works:
Shaare Zedek Syangogue
National Cathedral Washington DC
Christ the king Chapel
Church of the resurrection Wichita KS
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Rodney Winfield Video

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Shaare Zedek Rabbis /Hazzans
1905 Reverend Jacob Korn
1914-1922 Rabbi Bernard Dov Berele Abramowitz 
1917 Cantor, Rev. Max Feinsinger
1922-1929 Rabbi Israel Lebendiger
1922-1937 Cantor Gedalliah Weinhaus
1930-1932 Rabbi Chaim Fishel Epstein (unofficial rabbi of SZ)
1934-1969 Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
1940s -1950 Cantor Aaron White
1971-1978 Rabbi Arnold Asher
1973-2012 Rabbi Sholom Paul (high holidays)
1976-1979 Cantor Eli Halperin
1977-1979 Hazzan, Rabbi Levi I. Galperin
1979-1983 Rabbi Zalman Stein
1979-2005 Cantor Paul Dubrow
1984-1995 Rabbi Kenneth Green
1987- Rabbi Dov Bard
1995-2000 Rabbi Hillel Gold
2001-2013 Rabbi Mark Fasman
2006-2013 Hazzan Joanna Dulkin

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Congregation Presidents

Shaare Zedek Board Presidents
1905-1907 Robert Horwitz (initial chairman)
1908-1913 Solomon Lipshitz
1914-16 Rubin Miller
1917-1926 Mitchell Grand
1927-1954 Louis Goodman
1954-1955 George Perlmutter
1956-1957 Sol Klayman
1958-1959 David Seltzer
1960-1961 Sam Kolker
1962-1963 Norman Imber
1964-1965 Max Tenzer
1966 Oscar Lehr
1967-1978 Herman Shanker
1969-1970 Jack Makovsky
1971-1972 Jonas Weinberger
1973-1974 leo Wolf
1975-1976 Albert Bleweiss
1977-1978 Leo Mirowitz
1979-1980 Norman "Buddy" Spetner
1981 David Hartstein
1982-1983 Marshall Myers
1984-1985 Maurice Guller
1986-1987 Gerson Spector
1988-1989 Shirley Hartstein
1990-1991 Morris Matlof
1993-1994 Sara Myers
1995-1996 Mendel Rosenberg
1997-1998 Barbara Shamir
1999-2000 Barry Pessin
2001-2002 Michael Waxenberg
2003-2004 Alan Spetner
2005-2006 Harriet Shanas
2007-2008 Marsha Birenbaum
2009-2010 Gary Kodner
2011-2012 Mitchell Shenker
2013 Steve Keyser

Brith Sholom Presidents
1908 – Isidore Rossman
J. D. Gross
1923 – M. Moyrovitz
1927-1931 – J. D. Gross
1931-1933 – Simon Sorkin
1933-1934 – William Seigelman
1934-1945 – Joseph M. Sacks
1946-1950 – Morris Rosenbaum
1950-1953 – Paul Felberbaum
1953-1956 – Ben Cohen
1956-1959 – Charles Binowitz
1960-1961 – Albert Felberbaum

Kneseth Israel Presidents
1934-1936 – Isaac Goodman
1936-1937 – Nathan Greenberg
1938-1940 – Moses Aaron Teitelbaum
1941-1943 – Gus Katcher
1943-1945 – Harry Feldman
1946-1947 – Nolan DeWoskin
1947-1949 – Ben Hoffman
1950-1952 – Sherman Blustein
1953-1954 – Leroy Kopolow
1954-1955 – Joseph Goldman
1956-1958 – Dr. William Parker
1959-1961 – Paul M. Essman

Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Presidents
1961-1963 – Albert Felberbaum
1963-1966 – Paul M. Essman
1966-1969 – Michael Cutter
1969-1972 – Mymen S. Gale
1972-1976 – Maurice J. Frankel
1976-1978 – Irl B. Baris
1978-1980 – David Samuels
1980-1982 – Yusef Hakimian
1982-1984 – Shirlene Baris
1984-1986 – Alan I. Berger
1986-1988 – Dr. Phillip L. Gould
1988-1994 – Vernon M. Mendel
1994-1996 – Gerald Cohen
1996-1999 – Dr. Ralph J. Graff
1999-2002 – Margaret E. Israel
2002-2003 – Gary A. Kodner
2003-2006 – Paula Hamvas
2006-2008 – Toby E. Don
2008-2011 – Richard B. Kodner
2011-2013 – Susan Cort

Kol Rinah Presidents
2013-2015 – Susan Cort
2015-2017 – MItchell Shenker
2017-2020 – Dr. Randi Mozenter

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History / Locations

Brith Sholom
This congregation began in the fall of 1908 as B’rith Sholom (Covenant of Peace), an Orthodox group for Austrian-Hungarian Jews. They rented Smith’s Hall at 14th and Carr Streets in the spring of 1909 and limited their membership to Austrian-Hungarian families only. (Later this would change to welcoming all Orthodox worshipers.)

In 1923, they purchased the former United Hebrew Temple at Kingshighway and Enright and moved the congregation westward, as other Jewish groups were doing. Their stay at this location was short-lived and in 1928, they purchased a building at 6166 Delmar, just east of the Loop. In 1937, they incorporated the B’rith Sholom Cemetery Association, purchasing land on Olive Street Road, just east of Hanley in University City.

A turning point for this congregation came in 1960. They had just finished building a synagogue in Richmond Heights when they decided to merge with the much smaller and younger Kneseth Israel congregation, bringing about a hundred new families into the merger. The move also marked a change in focus, as the Orthodox congregation switched to being Conservative. The new congregation, now called B’rith Sholom Kneseth Israel, soon was known as BSKI. As their building aged, however, change was coming once more, and, in 2013, BSKI merged again, this time with Shaare Zedek, and took an entirely new name: Kol Rinah. The merged congregation continued at 829 N. Hanley Road until the fall of 2019 when Kol Rinah moved to 7701 Maryland Ave. in Clayton, MO.

Brith Sholom Location Sept. 1908: Weitntraub's Hall, Seventh and Franklin Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63106

Brith Sholom Location 1910: 1020 Franklin Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63106

Brith Sholom Location 1911: 14th and Carr, St. Louis, Missouri 63106
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6362831,-90.1988344 View Map

Brith Sholom Location Oct. 1911–1923: Glasgow and Dayton, St. Louis, Missouri 63106

Brith Sholom Location 1923–1928: Kingshighway and Enright, St. Louis,
Missouri 63108 GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6527342,-90.2655255 View Map
(former United Hebrew Temple)

Brith Sholom Location 1928–1960: 6166 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63112 GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6551229,-90.3007189 View Map
(aquired a home around the corner on Washington street for their Hebrew School)

Kneseth Israel Locations:
Washington Ave. Downtown St. Louis garment district 1930s - 1940s
6349, 6351 Southwood Ave. in Clayton, 1934-1955
700 South Hanley Rd. in Clayton, 1957-59 

Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Location 1960–2013 (as BSKI)
(2013-2016 as Kol Rinah)
: 1107 East Linden Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63117 GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6335664,-90.3444686 View Map

Shaare Zedek Locations
Shaare Zedek can trace it's first location back to June 5, 1905, when a group of founders led by Rev. J, Korn opened a Hebrew School at 3935 Finney, just West of Vandeventer in the city of St. Louis. The success of this Talmud Torah, the very next month, Rev. Korn and Robert Horwitz held the first of many orgainzational meetings to form an Orthodox congregation.

One year later, the group rented the West End Hall to hold High Holiday services.

On Sunday, August 13, 1905 the growing group met to organize the first permanent, Orthodox Synagogue located in the West End. Robert Horwitz was elected chairman, and the name would be Shaare Zedek.

Articles of incorporation would be signed on October 27, 1905. With $1500 raised as seed money they purchased a house at 4557 Cook Street in St. Louis. 

Shaare Zedek Original Location 1906-1917: 4557 Cook Ave. St. Louis, MO 
(Location was later changed to 4559 Newberry Terrace)

Shaare Zedek Location 1917-1948: 4600 Page Blvd. at 1220 West End ave. St. Louis, MO, 1914 dedicated a cornerstone, 1923 Broke ground to begin construction, continued at location through -1948

Shaare Zedek Location 1949-1953: 5474 Delmar Blvd. St. Louis, MO 
(Shared space with the Epstein Hebrew Academy)

Shaare Zedek Location 1953-2013: 829 N. Hanley Road, St. Louis, MO 63130 
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6625684,-90.3349429 View Map

Kol Rinah Locations

Kol Rinah Location: 2013–2019: 829 N. Hanley Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63130 GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6625684,-90.3349429 View Map

Kol Rinah Location: 2019–Present: 7701 Maryland Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63105

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Thu, November 14 2019 16 Cheshvan 5780